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Emory Develops 'Mind Machine'

In the summer of 1996, Kyle Page was a pretty typical three-year-old. But shortly after that, Kyle's world changed drastically forever, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts.

A rare type of stroke damaged his brain stem, disconnecting his mind from his body. This left him unable to communicate with anything but facial gestures.

Kyle before his stroke (CBS)
"It's an incredibly painful thing for me, as a mother, not to be able to help him," says Kyle's mother, Mitzi Page.

But help may one day come from a brain implant developed at Emory University. It's a mind-machine connection that has allowed at least one stroke patient to perform some simple communication tasks on a computer, like spelling his name.

"This is the first time that the brain has directly moved a cursor on the screen," says Dr. Roy Bakay of Emory University.

The implant is placed in an area of the brain called the motor cortex, which is responsible for controlling the body's movements. It picks up the electrical signals that would normally go to move a hand, and translates them into computer moves.

Using the mouse (CBS)
"People have called it a mental mouse. So he tries to drive it, as if he had a mouse in his hand, but in fact, it's coming directly from his brain," says Dr. Philip Kennedy.

Researchers envision a day when paralyzed patients will be able to communicate, control their environment, and even send email. While this is still a long way off, for people like Kyle Page, it's something to hope for.

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