Many of us take the ability to speak for granted. However, there are people who have impaired motor skills which makes communication a near-impossible task. Scientists have been working on both tools and techniques to help those people, and have now developed a simple method that uses the size of the eyes' pupils. In fact, the system is so easy that it only requires a camera and a laptop.
Scientists have already figured out how to detect lies using the pupils of the eyes. This new system of communication is based on the natural responses in the pupils of people doing math in their heads. The pupil has a great variety of responses that can be measured and used to allow those who are unable to communicate to answer questions.
Researchers at Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany started with healthy volunteers. Those volunteers were asked to solve an arithmetic problem delivered to them via a computer screen. The scientists discovered that the pupil size increased as the volunteers attempted to solve the math problem. The volunteers were then asked a series of yes or no questions, but did not answer aloud. During this, the researchers began measuring pupil sizes and translated those into yes or no answers.
This research was followed up with measuring the pupil responses of stroke victims - those who had sustained brain damage. The scientists learned that the pupil sizes of these patients could be translated, allowing them to communicate via yes or no questions with those particular subjects.
Although the researchers feel that this method needs more study to make it faster and more accurate, they believe that this new system of communication could make a difference in the life of someone who might need it now. Scientists hope to begin to use this on coma patients in the near future.
Via Current Biology