A Miracle of Modern Science Helps Paralyzed Musicians Play Again

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Ground breaking technology coming out of The University of Plymouth and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability is granting a group of talented musicians a second chance at fulfilling their life’s calling. Each of these talented individuals suffers from advanced ALS- Lou Gehrig’s disease – something which prevents them from having even the most basic motor functions. Using an amazing computer interface system, patients are able to control musical systems through brainwave signals. Each patient is outfitted with a special skull cap with built-in electrodes that allow them to play music in real time by selecting patterns with their eyes. The Paramusical Ensemble, as they are fondly referred to, is a group of four musicians who are learning that despite their disability they can still develop their talents and embrace their creativity.

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Steve Thomas is a patient involved in this amazing project, who, in an interview with the Plymouth University magazine, shared his thoughts on the futuristic developments. “This is a truly magical experience. It is a chance to play with other severely disabled musicians, and it actually sounds impressive.” Researchers behind the technology believe that this development will have a transformative impact on individuals with various neurological disorders including locked-in syndrome.

Recently the Paramusical Ensemble performed an original composition entitled Activating Memory at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability. Professor Eduardo Miranda, the Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research shared his feelings regarding the advanced technology. “We have been working with the RHN for around four years, and our collaboration is having a hugely positive impact on everyone involved and changing perceptions at the same time. Our work is giving people an opportunity to put their physical impediments aside, and use music to communicate in ways that would not normally be possible because of their medical conditions. It is an amazing example of research being taken out of the laboratory and into the real world, with both inspiring and very emotional results.”

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