News

BCI pilot told he’s ineligible

Jonathan Brough was one of the first people to sign up for Cybathlon. Now, two months on, he’s been told he can’t compete.

The reason? He has a pacemaker.

Given how excited he was about competing, he’s understandably gutted about the news, but ensures us he is talking to his GP to work out a way for him to be eligible again. At present, this leaves Team Imperial, involving scientists at Imperial College, pilot-less.

“Due to the fact that I have a pacemaker the organisers are saying, for safety reasons, I can no longer take part,” he told us.

“I’m still working with Imperial College in designing and testing and intend to go to Cybathlon 2016, its just that at this point I will not be allowed to take part in the races. I have discussed this with my G.P. who is currently looking into it.”

Linda Seward, of NCCR Robotics, explained the ruling to us:

“The reason for the exclusion criteria for pacemakers is that as the participating devices may not be CE certified they may interfere with a pacemaker, so it’s a safety precaution.”

If you didn’t read our original interview with Jonathan, he contracted meningitis in 2007 and has been paralysed ever since.  Now 26, he lives near Stroud with two round-the-clock carers, but did not let it stop him completing a degree at Plymouth University.

As part of his preparation for Cybathlon, he had just started learning how to use a BCI, as he normally speaks with air from his ventilator. To control his wheelchair he uses a lip joystick, but the Rio Tinto team had been developing eye control for him.

Fortunately, Jonathan has found something to take his mind off the disappointment.

“I’m still finding it difficult to understand their decision but am hoping to go skiing in Milton Keynes next week.”

For a former skiing enthusiast, that is certain to lift his mood.

Jonathan Brough is aided by his carers.

Team effort: Jonathan Brough is aided by his carers.

Images: Courtesy of Jonathan Brough

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