'Eye writing' device aids paralyzed people

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Nursing home residents who do not have use of their arms or hands could have a new tool at their disposal to help them communicate through the written word — and do so in cursive or script.

Quadriplegics and people with “locked-in syndrome” have long been using technologies that allowed them to communicate through eye-movement or blinking. But scientists at France's Pierre and Marie Curie University-Paris have taken those innovations a step further by developing an “eye-writing” technology.

“Contrary to the current belief, we show that one can gain complete, voluntary control over smooth pursuit eye movements,” researcher Jean Lorenceau, Ph.D., said. The discovery “provides a tool to use smooth pursuit eye movements as a pencil to draw, write or generate a signature.”

Smooth eye movement means the process of sustaining movement of the eye over a longer period of time than typical herky-jerky movements most people use.

Lorenceau said this method allows for a “continuous stream of eye writing that can reflect the writer's own character.”
Trials for use of the device in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients will start in 2013.