Neuro Device closely cooperates with The Alarm Clock Clinic in Warsaw, a hospital for children with severe brain damage or DOC (disorders of consciousness). This is the first clinic of this kind in Poland. It is the main clinic that treats children with such conditions, and thus it is quite famous in Poland. Krzysztof Malej from Neuro Device installed a mindBEAGLE system there. We had the chance to talk with him about his work at The Alarm Clock Clinic in Warsaw and hear a fascinating success story.
Krzysztof, you have been using mindBEAGLE with a 17 year old boy who was diagnosed as vegetative. Can you tell me more about this patient?
Krzysztof: “There was a boy who had been assessed as being in a vegetative state by psychologists and orthopedics over one and a half years. He suffered a cardiac arrest during surgery, and his brain was damaged by the lack of oxygen. This placed the boy in a coma. When we started assessing him, he was only 17 years old. However, when we started with mindBEAGLE, we did the passive P300 assessment paradigms (auditory and vibro-tactile stimulations). On the very first day, the patient reached an accuracy of over 90 %. That was pretty impressive.”
Krzysztof: “During the next 5 mindBEAGLE sessions, we also started using vibro-tactile paradigms for communication, and we tried to communicate with him. The accuracy results were really impressive. Over 4 sessions, he answered about 21 Yes/No questions in total. For example: “Is the sun green?” or “Is New York in Great Britain?” and so on. The patient could answer almost every question correctly. Only 1 question was wrong. During the last session, we couldn’t communicate with him because he was very sleepy due to medication. It was no longer possible to continue the mindBEAGLE sessions with him. Altogether, we had 6 mindBEAGLE sessions with the patient.”
This was the youngest patient assessed with mindBEAGLE. Could he communicate without mindBEAGLE?
Krzysztof: “Well, his mother observed eye blinks. But, in fact, most doctors who worked with him said that there are no movements that the patient performs intentionally. His mother insisted that her son is conscious, but doctors never confirmed that. With mindBEAGLE, his mother was proven right about her son being conscious. The patient had been diagnosed as vegetative (also called the Unresponsive Wakefulness State), which means that the patient lacks cognitive functions. And yet, the mindBEAGLE sessions caused huge discussions about his diagnosis, due to the very high accuracy level and the successful communication. The doctors finally changed the diagnosis to Minimally Consciousness State. That was quite a huge positive change for the patient.”
This situation is all too common. Different studies have found that up to 43% of patients who are diagnosed as unable to communicate die to a disorder of consciousness can in fact communicate when re-assessed with new EEG-based tools.
Krzysztof: “Exactly. Imagine this situation. Doctors tell a patient’s friends and family that the patient cannot understand them and could not communicate in any way. Only the patient’s mother believed that he could understand her and potentially communicate. With mindBEAGLE, we could in fact confirm to his mother that it is really true: her son is conscious. The moment when she realized that, she had tears in her eyes. She was really happy about it.”
How does it feel to work with patients like this?
Krzysztof: “I’m a quite a young engineer whose main experience is in clinics like the Alarm Clock Clinic. Patients look like they were sleeping. Sometimes they move and they even seem to be watching you. But they do not respond at all. That was quite terrifying for me. There are people who simply can’t move anything. So it was quite difficult for me. But with time, I got used to that environment, since I am there almost every week. But it is still not easy to look at a 6 year old girl who was always very active, and suddenly can’t move or anything. It is very nice to watch these patients slowly heal. From week to week you can see the progress; for example, when somebody suddenly starts to smile. These are the very special moments I’ve experienced. Doing measurements with these people is not easy, but it is full of positive moments.”
Thanks for your time, Krzysztof!
| Krzysztof Malej works in the Neuro Device Group, a company in Poland that specializes in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and cognitive research. Malej is the product manager of NeuroDevice. He studied Medical Engineering at the University of Warsaw and the University of Milan. His knowledge ranges from psychological measurements to brain stimulation technology.
In his opinion, g.tec devices provide very good EEG data and signal processing comparing to other systems he knows:
“They are innovative and easy to use and provide good data quality, which is important for his work. The software from g.tec offers a high level of customization. It’s more than simply a recording tool; it gives users many tools to do whatever they want with their data.“