From Our 2012 Archives

Writing Using the Eyes Might Help Paralyzed Communicate

THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- A new technology may enable people who have lost the ability to move their arms or legs to use their eyes to write in cursive, or script.

The technology, which enables people to produce smooth eye movements in desired directions, could be of great benefit to people who have lost limb movement because of diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called ALS) or spinal or other injuries, according to the study published online July 26 in the journal Current Biology.

The "eye-writing" technology might also help improve eye-movement control in people with conditions such as dyslexia or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or in professions that require strong eye focus, such as surgeons and athletes, according to a journal news release.

"Contrary to the current belief, we show that one can gain complete, voluntary control over smooth pursuit eye movements," Jean Lorenceau, of Pierre and Marie Curie University-Paris, said in the news release. "The discovery also provides a tool to use smooth pursuit eye movements as a pencil to draw, write or generate a signature."

The technology uses a visual display to help people learn to develop smooth eye movement. It doesn't take much practice, according to Lorenceau.

"One can also imagine that, in the long term, eye movements can routinely be used in man-machine interactions," he said.

Lorenceau is developing an improved version of the eye writer, and tests with ALS patients should begin next year, according to the release.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, July 26, 2012