'Locked-in' Patients Have New Options To Communicate

Sep 21, 2020

An international company with offices in Milford is expanding the ways it can help people with ALS and cerebral palsy communicate.

Control Bionics works with "locked-in" patients who are unable to communicate on their own and sometimes are limited to the blink of an eye. The company's device called Neuronode reads the body's electrical signals and converts them into written or oral (through a recorded voice) communication.

By using hands, eye blinks or something else, patients look at a virtual keyboard and "write down" their thoughts or speak them with their own voice (at an early point in the disease) or another voice.

Now paired with new technology and more options, the company says it can reach a wider range of patients. CEO Rob Wong says flexibility is important. "When a funding decision is going to be made, you have to make a decision for the next five years as to what solution you're going to go with."

The type of patients the Neuronode can help is diverse. "We've seen young kids with cerebral palsy," says Product Director Emily Boland. "We work quite a bit within the spinal muscular atrophy community while still serving those with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, as well as ALS."

In cerebral palsy patients, the technology is able to sift through movements to figure out which ones are intentional.

Chief Technology Officer James Schorey says, "We're constantly looking for new ways to open up other access for our users in gaming and robotic controls." One way is through independent eating. Control Bionics has partnered with this Ohio company that WVXU reported on in 2017.

Control Bionics says the VA, private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid offer coverage for the technology, which costs thousands of dollars.