Grant Application

Amy Wagner, MD, and Katya Hill, PhD, CCC-SLP

Proposed Innovation

Consciousness requires both wakefulness and awareness. Disorders of consciousness (DoC) can occur after a severe brain injury — most commonly after a severe traumatic brain injury. Patients can be in a coma, have unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, or be in a minimally conscious state.

Patients with a serious brain injury who are assumed to be unaware may be aware but unable to communicate. Establishing functional communication with patients with DoC has moral, ethical, and disability justice implications regarding care. This project aims to use innovative brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to identify awareness in patients with DoC due to severe brain injury.

Improvements in Action

Through this project, researchers will use the mindBEAGLE® system to establish a noninvasive portable BCI as a communication tool for patients with DOC. It uses electroencephalography to detect brain activity and machine-learning algorithms to interpret meaning. Investigators believe it can be used to communicate with patients using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. In addition to providing a means of communicating, the system can be used to involve the patients in decisions regarding early withdrawal of life support and transition to comfort care. It also can help facilitate rehabilitation and recovery.

Intended Outcomes

Use of the mindBEAGLE will give a voice to the voiceless. No longer will clinical teams have to rely on observable behavioral signs to assess and communicate with patients. It offers the opportunity to jump start treatment and advance self-efficacy, self-advocacy, self-determination, and disability justice for patients.