Harnessing The Power Of The Brain
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of CBS News
Posted: November 28th, 2008
Scott Mackler was a husband, father and successful neuroscientist when he received perhaps the worst news imaginable. At the age of 40, he could run a marathon in three and a half hours, but it was about that time he discovered he had ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. His brain was losing its connection to virtually every muscle in his body. Today, Scott Mackler's mind is sharp as ever, but his body has failed. Doctors call it "locked in" syndrome. Scott and his wife Lynn learned to communicate with about the only thing he has left, eye movement. To signal "yes," Lynn says Scott looks at her; to signal "no," he looks away. [Yet Scott can now write] words, one letter at a time, with nothing but his thoughts and the help of what's called a brain computer interface or "BCI." He wears a cap that picks up the electrical activity of his brain and allows him to select letters simply by thinking about them. Then the computer turns his sentences into speech. "I hate being helpless and when other people put words in my mouth," he wrote. It isn't fast. It takes 20 seconds or so to select each letter. But he writes well enough to continue his research and manage his lab at the University of Pennsylvania, where he still goes to work everyday. Asked what it has meant to their relationship, Scott's wife Lynn tells Pelley, "Well, he's happier. He can communicate with not just us, but with the world. This gave him his independence. His working, intellectual, scientist independence back."