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Brain sensor helps paralyzed people do tasks

Rating

2 Star

Brain sensor helps paralyzed people do tasks

Our Review Summary

For patients who are paralyzed, the hope for miracles that permit movement or at least more interaction with the world around them is likely to be quite strong. This article states the very limited success of a brain implant device. But it may portray false hope that this may be an option for current patients.

The story overstates the benefits of the implant multiple times by saying that the technology can help “paralyzed people” and “paralyzed patients” – implying that there is more than one person involved. The reality is that, so far, the technology “worked” for one person and two monkeys – hardly enough to assume that this technology will truly end up helping people in the real world. Furthermore, it is difficult to state whether this person was truly helped by this technology because the amount of control that he achieved was not very good.

The story does not comment on the availability of the treatment, nor does it mention costs, which are likely to be astronomical. The story also does not mention the alternative technologies, including scalp electrodes and devices that pick up eye movements. The story also did not mention harms of treatment, which, since the implant goes through the skull, presumably include at least the risk of infection.

The individuals studied in the Nature report represent research subjects who must have been very carefully screened and aware of the novelty of the treatment. The article should have clearly stated that the widespread availability of such devices is likely many years off at best.

It is good that the story quotes an independent neurologist: “Duke University neurologist Miguel Nicolelis, who was not part of the studies, said he is surprised that Nature published a report on an ongoing patient trial, noting that two other patients have received implants, and the 25-year-old patient has since had his removed after a year of use. Nicolelis expressed concern that the journal is in effect promoting a medical-device company with the study.”

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention costs, which are likely to be astronomical.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment. Moreover, the story overstates the benefits multiple times by saying that the technology can help “paralyzed people” and “paralyzed patients” – implying that there is more than one person involved. The reality is that the technology worked for one person and two monkeys – hardly enough to assume that this technology will truly end up helping people in the real world. Furthermore, it is difficult to state whether this person was truly helped by this technology because the amount of control that he achieved was not very good.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention harms of treatment, which, since the implant goes through the skull, presumably include at least the risk of infection.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions two reports in the journal Nature, there is insufficient information on the nature of the existing evidence. The story mentions the limited success of the device, but the lead sentence implies that it allows paralyzed patients to use a computer.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story quotes the authors of the two study and a neurologist not associated with the studies. It included this important perspective: “Duke University neurologist Miguel Nicolelis, who was not part of the studies, said he is surprised that Nature published a report on an ongoing patient trial, noting that two other patients have received implants, and the 25-year-old patient has since had his removed after a year of use. Nicolelis expressed concern that the journal is in effect promoting a medical-device company with the study.”

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the alternative technologies, including scalp electrodes and devices that pick up eye movements.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not comment on the availability of the treatment. Nowhere does the story mention that this treatment is not available outside of the study reported.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that this technology is new.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Because the story quotes an independent neurologist and does not lift text from the company’s press release or from the article in Nature, the reader can be confident that the story does not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory

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