Mind Over Machine

Patients with brain injuries face a difficult struggle just to communicate. Now a revolutionary new brain implant technique may ease this process. CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports.

In the summer of 96, Kyle Page was a pretty typical three-year-old. Shortly thereafter, Kyle's world changed forever.

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

"It's an incredibly painful thing for me as a mother for me not to be able to help him," says Mitzi Maccormick-Page.

But help

may one day come from a brain implant developed at Emory University. It is a mind machine connection that has allows stroke patients 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.

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, say a hand, and translates them into computer moves.

"People have called it a mental mouse. So the patient 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.

It also lets the patient hear his brain working to help guide the cursor.

Researchers envision a day when a paralyzed patient could communicate, control their environment, and even send email.

It is still a long way off for people like Kyle Page but it is something to give him hope.

Reported By John Roberts