Twitter: Scientific Benefits


Wow, something useful might actually come from Twitter. I should start off by mentioning that I do not use Twitter; I don’t follow people who have Twitter; I have never even visited the Twitter website- I am assuming there is one- I simply know the basic premise behind it. There are two main reasons I am steering clear of Twitter:

1. I already have way too many things that I waste my time doing (eBay, Facebook, reading/writing blogs, checking email, reading, sleeping).

2. Inspite of friends who now Tweet, but used to make fun of my constant Facebook status updating.

In a society where everyone loves to know everyone’s business, follow celebrities, and have constant stimulation, I totally understand why Twitter is a hit. I just personally don’t want to get caught up in it.

I was very surprised to read an article the other day that a scientific idea was brought about because of Twitter. Coming from a science background, I have witnessed how much research is out there in the world that makes only baby steps towards something useful and that is beneficial to the world. And, how much there is out there that doesn’t even do that.

Adam Wilson, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his supervisor, Justin Williams, realized a potential scientific breakthrough based on a question they heard posed over the radio. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could Twitter just by thinking about it?” Wilson thought that yes, they could do that, based on their research.

Using a head cap outfitted with electrodes that measures brain activity in specific regions and a brain-computer interface, they were able to develop a way to tweet. By focusing on a desired letter, they measure and interpret electrical impulses generated by thought and spell using their brain. They developed a way to compose and post messages using Twitter by thought alone.

This would be a breakthrough: a way to communicate for people with “locked-in syndrome”. People with this syndrome are paralyzed- they have brains that function normally but cannot speak or move because of injury or disease. This could change the lives of people across the world. All of this, because of Twitter.

I think this is pretty cool! I’m a science geek, fascinated by how the body works. I totally have this image in my head of everyone walking around with these fitted caps, texting by thought. But, that would be worse than those damn blue tooth devices in everyone’s ears, and we don’t want to share all our thoughts with everyone. I know that would get me in some trouble.

Article: “Brain-Twitter project offers hope to paralyzed patients,” by Richard Allen Greene.

  • Colin

    On the other hand, I heard that a study showed that people who use twitter have something like a 50% greater chance of death within the next year (I can’t recall the exact % but it was huge). Seems ridiculous, but I saw it on TV so it must be true 🙂