There are many diseases that can lead to a total loss of control of the muscles of the body. For instance, the ability of people affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy or spinal cord injuries to physically interact with the environment is usually reduced, and they may even lose it completely. In many cases, these patients reach a state known as the locked-in syndrome (LIS). In its classical modality, this syndrome is defined by the patients inability to make any movement, but blinks and vertical eye displacements, despite being still conscious. This renders them completely dependent not only on their close family, but also on ventilatory machines to remain alive. In some cases, these patients can reach the state knows as complete locked-in state (CLIS), or a state equivalent to the latter in which, without suffering from paralysis of the eye muscles, patients have lost control of these muscles. These patients live without any possibility of communicating with the outside world.
In some cases, patients can use interaction systems as eyetrackers to communicate, but in extreme situations it is crucial to provide the patient with a non-muscular communication path. This is nowadays feasible thanks to an array of systems, which are grouped under the name of braincomputer interfaces (BCI). Their common feature is to process the brains electrical activity for extracting information that can be used to command an external device, allowing to establish a new communication and control channel for people with locked-in syndrome.
Considering the painful situation of these patients and others that suffer from severe motor disabilities, the efforts of the scientific community were aimed from the very beginning at developing applications for BCI systems based on the control of a virtual keyboard to restore the patient’s communication and control capacity. Unfortunately, at present, there are not usable systems and easy to configure, existing only experimental platforms. Precisely, one of the obstacles that continues to hamper the daily use of these applications is the no existence of compact and low cost systems, and easily configurable.
The general objectives of this project are focused on carrying out research and application development tasks with the aim of contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of patients with LIS or CLIS, as is the case of some patients who suffer ALS. This project aims to develop a final application for domestic use intended for communication and control of the environment for people with LIS. This application will be easily configurable and adaptable to the needs of each patient. In addition, specific solutions will be proposed that allow certain patients under CLIS a communication option. Research will also be carried out to improve the effectiveness of these systems applied to the control of a virtual keyboard