ABC – Augmented BNCI Communication

Interaction system for DCP patients

© Photo RoBeDeRo/istock

Patients with dyskinetic cerebral palsy (DCP) cannot control their movements and their facial expression. Most are unable to speak, so their means of communication are extremely limited. An interaction system developed by Fraunhofer FIT aims to improve their situation. It combines novel sensors, latest user interface technologies and machine learning algorithms to let the system learn to understand its DCP-stricken users and to open new communication channels for them.

In Europe, about 125,000 people suffer from dyskinetic cerebral palsy (DCP). Some 1,500 new patients are added every year. DCP is caused by a defect in brain development, typically in early childhood. DCP patients cannot control their movements and their facial expression. Most are unable to speak, so their means of communication are extremely limited. On the other hand, their cognitive abilities are mostly unaffected; some 80 percent of DCP patient can reach an average IQ.

The EU-funded ABC project aimed to augment the communication capabilities of DCP patients, in order to improve their interaction with their families and nurses, extend their chances for social participation and enable them to use electronic devices for learning or playing. The project reached this goal. The interaction system developed by FIT in the ABC project is based on the latest research on brain/neural computer interfaces, i.e. using sensor data of brain activities to control electronic devices, and on affective computing. Affective computing aims to enable computer systems to sense the user's emotional state and to react appropriately in its interaction with the user. As an example, patient and nurse might define how the computer system reacts to the user's current emotional situation, e.g. by playing the user's favorite music in particularly stressful situations.

The results of the project may also help patients suffering from diseases with similar effects as DCP, like locked-in syndrome or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).