Communicating through Technology Despite Impaired Consciousness

International workshop at CITEC deals with brain-computer interfaces for people with severe forms of impaired consciousness.

Could brain-computer interfaces help give patients with severe forms of impaired consciousness, such unresponsive wakefulness syndromes, the ability to communicate? Researchers will explore this question at the international workshop “Establishing Communication with Low Responsive Patients – Perspectives for Cognitive Interaction Technology,” which will be held at the CITEC building of Bielefeld University from 3–5 September 2015. Professor Dr. Helge Ritter, Coordinator of the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) and Professor Dr. Johanna Kissler, head of the research group “Affective Neuropsychology” will host the event.

“The goal of the workshop is to bring together researchers and specialists from both fields – severe consciousness disorders and brain-computer interfaces – in order to encourage exchange between these two areas of research,” explains Johanna Kissler. “By strengthening cooperation, we expect to make progress in neurorehabiliation, and possibly even establish a method of communication for patients with the most severe forms of impaired consciousness.”

With this workshop, researchers from around the world want to shed light on the opportunities presented by the latest developments in the field of brain-computer interfaces. The focus here is on the following question: Is this technology suitable for recognizing whether a patient is “close to consciousness,” or “conscious?” Could this technology help to increase the frequency of these phases, or to extend the length of such phases and enable patients to communicate with others?

First and foremost, the workshop participants aim to find out to what extent the current technology can facilitate rehabilitation and communication for patients with severe impairments of consciousness. While sharing different perspectives and presenting technological developments, the researchers would also like to use the workshop to garner interest and draw public and scientific attention to disorders of consciousness. In addition to the September workshop, the researchers will also publish a special edition on this topic in the respected scientific journal Frontiers.

Professor Dr. Johanna Kißler, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Phone: 0521 106-4433