We have been receiving quite a few inquiries about the technology reported in a recent article in the news about a woman with a catastrophic brain injury who was able to communicate with her mother after 21 years, using eye-motion cameras and software on a tablet
Brain Injury Canada only endorses products which have been backed by evidence-based research, ideally randomized control trials. The Eyegaze device/software seems at a glance to be an excellent device for brain injury or physical injuries affecting motoric capabilities (such as that shown in the video on their website), however more information is needed for it to be endorsed by our organization.
In consultation with researchers on both our Board of Directors and in the brain injury community we have come up with the following considerations:
- Caution must be used when the impairment goes beyond the motor capabilities (i.e. if cognition, etc., is affected) where this tool may be of limited use
- For the woman in the article, it can be deceiving because we don’t have enough information to evaluate whether random looks at the device correlate with possible preformed words and phrases
- This type of technology can be risky – people tend to over-interpret patient responses with the best of intentions and even wishful thinking in some cases
- More information is needed on how this woman was tested
- Physicians have seen scenarios play out in clinic where similar technology initially seems okay, but when you add just a little extra layer of complexity, one can confirm that basically the system is not working; facilitated communication in the past has also resulted in caregivers providing the inputs, again usually with the best of intentions
- More information is needed on the reliability of the device – how much “control” does it have?
Our researchers will be doing further investigation into the success of the use of this program, as well as into Eyegaze program in general. This information will be posted to our website when available. In the meantime, we encourage you to speak with your neurologist or treating physician about all program options they recommend for treatment and communication.
Prepared in consultation with Dr. Hugh A. Mirolo, Neuropsychiatrist