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Doubts as to study mind-reading

The study had attracted two years ago, a worldwide sensation: With a special cap with Sensors, it was succeeded to communicate with the brains of fully paralyze

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Doubts as to study mind-reading

The study had attracted two years ago, a worldwide sensation: With a special cap with Sensors, it was succeeded to communicate with the brains of fully paralyzed people, and to receive answers to Yes/no questions.

Now, the journal has published in "PLOS Biology", in which the study was published, last week a rebuttal to this publication. The tübingen-based computer scientist by the name of Martin fabric softener wrote a critique of the study points to glaring errors in the data analysis. Accordingly, the paper, otherwise than by the scientists involved claimed to deliver, no evidence that communication with patients in a so-called Completely locked-in state (Clis). These are people whose mind is awake, their muscles respond to signals from the brain. This newspaper has asked a number of experts. All confirm the shortcomings of the study by 2017.

In the criticism Niels Birbaumer, a prominent German scientist of today is mainly from the Swiss Wyss Foundation-funded Institute in Geneva. The Emeritus Professor at the University of Tübingen, is the author of hundreds of articles, more than two dozen books and winner of the Leibniz prize, has explained in the past years, in numerous Interviews and lectures, what are the advantages of his method of patient, which are due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (als) in a state of complete paralysis.

Statistical defects

the used technology, a brain cap with infrared sensors, could make the patient's "relatively reliable by the power of thought is understandable," said Birbaumer 2017 in the "mirror". The German press Agency spread the message: "head hood, can read the thoughts of completely paralyzed people." The underlying publication should be in error, it would be a huge setback for Birbaumer, his area of expertise, and the scientific Publication system.

"I have used various test procedures, and could find no statistically significant effects," explains a well-known expert on brain-Computer interface, BCI for short. He had attributed Birbaumers work from the year 2017.

The experts not only criticize "the sloppy handling of information". Is also criticised that important information of the study were never published in full, although "PLOS Biology" requires this, actually. But publicly, the professional world is covered hardly any of the researchers would like to see his name in the press.

More than 18 months, it has taken until the the scientific journal "PLOS published Biology" is the reply.

Currently, a high-level Commission of the University of Tübingen examine whether a case of scientific misconduct. That would be the case if the authors of the study faked, either intentionally or criticism of their results would be suppressed.

Multiple unclean publications

Niels Birbaumer and his staff Ujwal Chaudhary, the main author of the questionable study by 2017, says in front of the tübingen Commission in several hours of interviews. The judgment of the panel is expected soon. Also the German research Foundation (DFG), the allegations known. Whether there should be an inquiry procedure, will still be examined, declared the speaker on demand.

More than 18 months it had lasted, until the journal "PLOS published Biology" the reply to Birbaumers publication. An E-Mail exchange shows how the computer scientist to use fabric softener in Birbaumers working group took place at the beginning of a hearing, after a short time, but a rebuff received the note, he understood. "PLOS Biology" fought long against the publication of the critique.

The affair is, among other things, due to the prominence of the chief scientist's controversial. The 73-year-old Niels Birbaumer has done in many areas of Psycho-physiology and pioneering work and excellent science, for example, in epilepsy research, to confirm former companions. Much were ingenious ideas, which, among other things, a valuable insight into the world of AS-delivered patient. However, the research also inconsistencies, which go beyond the publication of the 2017 show. As a doctoral Birbaumers at the University of Tübingen was denied the Promotion, even though this is 2014 had published on the same topic, a publication in the journal "Neurology". In addition, scientists refer to other publications from Birbaumers working groups, the statistical methods to be unclean.

Violent reaction to criticism

But in particular, the publication Birbaumers from the year 2017 do not keep "a careful Review and should be withdrawn by the authors," explains an expert for BCI data. Several other experts to confirm the defects. You have come to the conclusion that with today's methods it was not possible to communicate with the brains of patients in the so-called Completely locked-in state.

faced With the criticism, Niels Birbaumer, all of the allegations. He calls the response "bullshit" and speaks of "computer science banter". The tübingen-based Commission is not interested in him "at all". He was still convinced that the contact with the brains of paralyzed patients, works. You now had to make rather more, by putting paralytic patients implants directly into the brain.

Also Birbaumers staff and the first author of the study, by 2017, Ujwal Chaudhary, insists on the correctness of the applied procedure. This will both establish a comprehensive, highly technical publication, was also published last week, of "PLOS Biology". A Respondent expert calls this justification, however, "deeply confusing".

In the conflict, it is not only the Details of a questionable publication worthy, but enormous ethical implications. AS a patient, need to expect to get into a Clis-state, make their patients orders might depend on whether you can communicate in a state of complete paralysis. Members of these patients live in the hope that with their paralyzed Relatives to communicate. Several families with Clis-visited patients Birbaumer regularly and brings his now criticised the brain-cap.

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 14.04.2019, 17:26 PM

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