Balancing Act 位動致衡

By Madeline Fisher PhD’98
Photos by Jeff Miller  

Shaken by the realities of the business world and the untimely death of it creator, a fledgling UW Madison company spin off in finding balance


On a frigid day in January 2000, Mitch Tyler’s world began to tumble. After catching a cold from his eighteen-month-old son, Tyler had developed an ear infection so severe he’s temporarily lost his sense of balance. Now, as the bus he rode to work slid sideways on a patch of ice, he once again felt like he was falling. Objects spun in his vision as if inside a kaleidoscope, and he could no longer distinguish up from down. “You can’t tell where your body is lying in space, Tyler says. “It’s terrifying.” Yet with that dizzying moment also came good fortune, for when Mitch Tyler’s world began to tumble, it also began to come together. At the time, Tyler, a UW biomedical engineer, was also working for a small UW-Madison spin-off business called Wicab, founded by Paul Bach-y-Rita, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation medicine. Based on Bach-y-Rita’s revolutionary idea that one sense could stand in place of another, Wicab (pronounced “wee-cob) was developing technology that might allow blind people to see by feeling sensations on their tongues. As he made his way to Wicab’s tiny rented space on the UW-Madison campus, still reeling from his bus trip, Tyler was suddenly seized by another possibility. A few moments later, he stopped by Bach-y-Rita’s office.

在2000年1月的一個寒冷日子,米奇泰勒的世界開始崩跌。自從被他那十八個月大的兒子傳染感冒後,泰勒病況演變成嚴重的耳部感染,導致他暫時失去了平衡感。現在,當他上班時所乘坐的公共汽車在一塊冰上偏滑,他再次覺得自己正墜落著。物體在他的視見中旋轉仿若萬花筒世界,他不再能區別方位。 “你無法分辨你身體正處在哪個空間,”泰勒說。 “這很可怕。”然而,隨著這令人暈眩的時刻也帶來了好運,因為當米奇泰勒的體況開始驟跌,他的事業卻否極泰來。當時,泰勒是威斯康星大學生物醫學工程師,也正為威斯康星大學麥迪遜分校的骨科復健醫學教授保羅巴哈- y-瑞塔所成立的小型附屬業務,稱為 wicab的機構
工作。據巴哈- y-瑞塔革命性的思想,一種感官可被替代是成立的,wicab(發音:“/wi/ – /kɑb/ ”)正在開發的技術,可以讓盲人藉著他們自己的舌頭去感覺知覺而真的看見。當他走向威斯康星大學麥迪遜分校的校園的迷你租用空間wicab 工作室時,公車之行仍讓他感覺天旋地轉。此時泰勒突然領略另一種可能性。幾分鐘後,他停在巴哈- y-瑞塔的辦公室。

“I said, ‘Paul, I have this crazy idea,’ ” Tyler recalls. Bach-y-Rita, who had a penchant for wild notions, smiled and asked, “What?”

“我說:保羅,我有個瘋狂的想法;”泰勒回憶道。這位對狂野概念有強烈嗜好的巴哈- y-瑞塔笑著問:“什麼?”
“What if the tongue display could represent something as simple as balance?” Tyler asked. “And Paul said, ‘You know, I think you’ve got something there.’ ”
“如果舌頭顯示器能描繪像平衡那樣簡單的東西會怎樣?”泰勒問道。“ 保羅說:的確! 我想,你已捕捉到些東西。”
As someone who had made a career of pushing scientific boundaries, Bach-y-Rita had a knack for seeing into the future. His intuition, in this case, was right on. Today a treatment for balance disorders is the most immediate and practical manifestation of Wicab’s unusual technology and the company’s first product: the BrainPort balance device.

對於致力推動邊緣科學致業,巴哈- y-瑞塔有先見之明。他的直覺,在這樁事兒上,可謂一葉知秋。公司的第一個產品:大腦通訊埠平衡裝置是現今wicab治療失衡最立即直接的不凡技術表現形式,。

What Bach-y-Rita didn’t anticipate, however, was the winding and uncertain path from Tyler’s inspiration to the product’s commercialization. Or that the company’s growth would require him to put aside his deepest drive as a scientist: to continue exploring.

巴哈- y-瑞塔沒有預料到的是,從泰勒的靈感到產品商品化的產生,是一條曲折和不明的路徑。以及,該公司的增長需使他撇開作為一個科學家的深沉驅動力:”持續探索”。

He also couldn’t know that this would be one of the final journeys of his career. When Bach-y-Rita was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, he resolved that Wicab would transform from a research-focused enterprise into what he called a “real business.” And before he died in November 2006, he saw it through.

他也許不知道這可是他職業生涯的最後一段旅程。當巴哈- y-瑞塔在2004年,被診斷出罹患癌症,他決定把Wicab從研究取向為重點的企業改變為他所謂的“實體商業生意。”在他於 2006年11月往生之前,他看得很透徹。

If launching a business is a leap of faith, Paul Bach-y-Rita was well trained for the exercise, having spent most of his career diving off cliffs into unknown waters. Trained as a physician and neuroscientist, Bach-y-Rita was a full professor of visual sciences and physiology at the University of California-Davis when his father suffered a major stroke in the mid-1960s. After witnessing his father’s remarkable recovery, he concluded that his knowledge of the brain and how it undergoes change was incomplete. He soon left UC-Davis and vaulted into a clinical residency in rehabilitation medicine.

如果推展業務是一種信仰的飛躍,保羅 巴哈- y-瑞塔深諳此道,他致力探索最穹盡的深淵。訓練成為一名醫生和神經學家後,在60年代中期當他的父親罹患嚴重中風時,巴哈- y-瑞塔當時是美國加州大學戴維斯分校視覺科學教授和生理學的正教授。在見證了父親不可思議的復原後,他推論他對大腦的知識和其如何經歷變化是不完整的。於是他很快就離開了加州大學戴維斯分校並一躍投入為復健醫學的臨床住院醫師。

The move mystified his colleagues, but to Bach-y-Rita, the choice was clear. He believed rehab medicine would be more open to his ideas than the world of traditional neuroscience — and for that, he was prepared to gamble. “I guess I’ve always been willing to take a chance and do things that were not within the usual limits,” he said in an interview shortly before his death.

他的同事對此舉大惑不解,但對’巴哈- y-瑞塔來說,選擇是明確的。他相信復健醫學對他的想法會比傳統神經科學的世界更加開放- 為此,他準備放手一博。 “我想我一直都願意嘗試機會且做事並不設限”他在死亡不久前接受採訪時說。
Inspired by his father’s experience, Bach-y-Rita began investigating the concept of a “plastic” brain, the then-revolutionary idea that the brain can reorganize its functions in response to learning or experience, even at an advanced age and after major damage. This radical notion soon led to Bach-y-Rita’s first studies of sensory substitution. He hypothesized that, if deprived of one sense, the brain could learn how to use other senses to compensate for — or even replace — the lost sense. A blind person’s brain, for example, could learn how to interpret nerve impulses as visual information even when they came through a completely different sense, such as touch.

靈感來自他的父親的經驗,巴哈- y-瑞塔開始調查大腦“可塑性”的概念,在當時的革命性的思想是,即使在高齡且遭受重大損害,大腦可以重新組織其功能以適應學習或經驗,。這種激進的想法很快引導巴哈- y-瑞塔的第一個感官替代的研究。他推測,如果剝奪了一種感覺,大腦可以學習如何使用其它的感官來彌補 – 甚至取代 – 失去的感覺。例如,一個盲人的大腦,可以學習如何將神經衝動轉為視覺信息,即使是藉由像觸覺這樣完全不同的感覺體驗。

When he arrived at UW-Madison in 1983, Bach-y-Rita began experimenting in earnest with ways to send visual cues to the brain by stimulating the tactile, or touch-sensitive, nerves of the skin, such as those on the abdomen or fingertip. In the late 1990s, he made another intuitive leap: why not use the tongue? After all, he reasoned, the tongue is much more sensitive to touch than any of the other body parts he’d tried. The saliva in the mouth would also make it much easier to transmit electrical impulses.

當他於 1983年來到威斯康星大學麥迪遜分校,巴哈- y-瑞塔開始認真嘗試藉由觸覺刺激,或如那些在腹部或指尖的皮膚神經敏感的觸摸等方式發送視覺線索到大腦。在90年代末,他又找到另個直觀的躍進:為什麼不能用舌頭?畢竟,他的論點,舌頭比他已嘗試的身體任何其他部位對接觸更敏感。口中的唾液使其更容易去傳送電脈衝。
Armed with this idea and the sophisticated electronics that had become available, Bach-y-Rita and an engineer/scientist named Kurt Kaczmarek devised a crude “tongue display,” a mat made up of 144 electrodes that sat on a person’s tongue. When hooked to a camera, the mat converted images into patterns of electrical stimulation, allowing someone to “see” objects by sensing the patterns on his or her tongue. Wearing the tongue display, blind people were able to perceive objects such as a flickering candle or a rolling ball.

有了這些理念和先進的電子產品讓這些想法可行,巴哈- y-瑞塔和一位名為庫爾特卡茲瑪瑞克的工程師 /科學家發明了一個粗略的“舌頭顯示器,”一簇由144個電極作成的設備可放在一個人的舌頭上。當鉤接到一個攝像頭,這器材可將圖像轉換成電刺激的模式,藉著他或她的舌頭感知模組而使人“看見”物體。戴著這舌頭顯示器,盲人能夠感知理解如閃爍的蠟燭或一個滾動的球這樣的物體。
The tongue display’s potential was enough to convince the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the university’s patenting and licensing organization, to apply for a patent in early 1998. But WARF thought the chances of licensing the far-out technology to an established firm were remote. Officials there presented Bach-y-Rita with the possibility of commercializing it himself.

於 1998年初舌頭顯示器的潛力足以說服威斯康星校友研究基金會,大學的專利和許可組織去申請專利。但威斯康星校友研究基金認為這不尋常的設備發許可證到成立公司是很遙遠的。那裡的官員表達了讓巴哈- y-瑞塔自己將產品商品化的可能性。 

Intrigued, Bach-y-Rita invited his other main collaborator, Mitch Tyler, to lunch. By meal’s end, they had agreed, almost casually, to launch a company. In honor of his wife, Esther, Bach-y-Rita named it Wicab, her family name, which means “lover of honey” in Mayan.

出於興趣,巴哈- y-瑞塔邀請他的另一個主要合作者,米奇泰勒,共進午餐。到吃飯結束時,他們都同意,幾乎非正式的,成立一家公司。為紀念他的妻子艾絲特,巴哈- y-瑞塔將它命名為 Wicab,她家族的名字,在馬雅意思是“甜蜜情人”。

Whether to launch a company is a question university scientists ponder frequently these days, as more and more of them choose to protect their discoveries through patents. Faculty inventions are often too far ahead of existing markets to be of interest to established companies, and so, for many professors, starting a business may be their best chance of seeing their idea manifest in the world. Many states, including Wisconsin, also hope to entice professors into launching businesses as a means to create high-tech jobs and boost local economies.

To assist faculty members in taking the plunge, WARF waives the licensing fee it normally charges companies to use its intellectual property commercially and takes equity in university spin-offs instead. Since 1994, the foundation has helped forty such businesses get under way, more than 85 percent of which are still operating.

But even with help, running a company is an extremely time-consuming endeavor. Why would a professor with an already demanding slate of administrative, teaching, and research obligations want to take it on? More often than not, it isn’t strictly about money, says business professor Anne Miner, who has both studied and acted as an informal adviser to faculty entrepreneurs. Some professors use a business start-up as an applied arm of their campus research programs. Others, at the top of their careers academically, are simply looking for a new challenge.


Then there are those who hope to do a social good. Miner believes Bach-y-Rita fell into this last group. “My sense is that he really wanted to help the world a lot,” she says.

還有的則是希望能使社會良善。邁爾相信,巴哈- y-瑞塔屬於這最後一組。 “我的感覺是,他真的想盡力幫助這個世界”她說。
In its infancy, Wicab was fueled almost solely by that optimistic spirit. Housed on campus and funded through grants, the company bore a strong likeness to the research program from which it emerged. Ideas flew around the room, recalls Kaczmarek, and although the researchers were careful to distinguish their company and university activities, they reveled in the exchange.
“One minute I might be working on my NIH grant and the next minute I might be talking with Mitch about a better stimulus protocol for the tongue,” he says. Lunches at a small conference table often blossomed into two-hour scientific discussions. And then there was Bach-y-Rita, constantly stirring the pot with his wild ideas.
“這一分鐘我可能在美國國立衛生研究院資助下工作,下一分鐘我可能和米奇討論關於一個激活舌頭實驗更好的方案”他說。午餐在小會議桌上往往發展成一兩個小時的科學探討。而巴哈- y-瑞塔在其中不斷翻攪著他的瘋狂想法。
“It was, as is the case with a lot of small start-ups, a one-big-happy-family kind of scenario,” Kaczmarek says. “It was really a glorious time.”


In the summer of 2000, Wicab hired Yuri Danilov, a neurophysiologist with vast knowledge of the nervous system, who helped the team envision all kinds of applications for its nascent technology. The scientists began mapping a “star chart” of all the possible uses. Nearest and most obvious were “first order” stars, such as a system to augment hearing, vision substitution for the blind, and an assistive device to help people with damage to the vestibular system, a region of the inner ear critical to balance. From these core applications, the group traced logical paths to scores of more distant possibilities, such as treatments for Parkinson’s disease or for children with sensory-motor integration disorders. Eventually, the star chart held more than 170 applications scribbled on several taped-together pages.

在2000年夏天,Wicab聘請一個對神經系統具淵博知識的神經生理學家:尤里丹尼洛夫,幫助這個團隊的新興技術設想提出各類申請。科學家們開始為所有的可能用途繪製“星象圖”。最接近和最明顯能運用的列為“首選”星相,如加強聽力的系統,替代盲人視力和幫助內耳前庭系統:內耳一個平衡的關鍵的區域,其受損害的人一個輔助裝置。從這些核心應用,小組追查邏輯路徑列出更多不同使用的可能性,如治療帕金森氏症或兒童的感覺運動整合障礙等。最後,星象圖在幾個串聯頁上使用超過 170個粗略應用。

Among all the stars, the scientists believed two shone the brightest: vision and, thanks to Mitch Tyler’s timely illness, balance. In the lab, they built and tested prototypes for each application. To make the balance device, Tyler purchased a green plastic hard hat and attached a miniature accelerometer, which relayed information through a computer to the tongue display’s electrodes. Someone wearing the helmet and standing upright would feel a buzz at the center of his or her tongue. But if the individual swayed, the accelerometer sensed the deviation and sent an error signal, causing the sensation to move left, right, backward, or forward, depending on the direction of the tilt. The person’s task was to move in space until the signal became centered again.

“It’s like having someone place a finger on top of your head to indicate you’re upright,” says Tyler. “If you tip your head, you feel the finger slide off to one side, and you naturally move your head back to compensate. It’s a very simple concept. You’re just correcting for a deviation in your position relative to a marker.”

“這就像有人在你的頭上面放置一個手指,標示你現是直立的,”泰勒說。 “如果你的頭傾斜,你感受到手指滑落到一邊,你自然會移動你的頭回正。這是一個非常簡單的概念。你只是以一個相對的標記糾正偏差的位置。“

It’s easy to imagine this involves concentrating on the signal’s location and figuring out how to shift in response. But after a training period of just a couple of minutes, the body reacts to the stimulus without conscious thought. “Once the concept is in place that the stimulation on the tongue means something about your orientation in space, the beauty of it is that it is very intuitive,” says Tyler. “It very quickly goes from being a conscious process to being subconscious.”

這牽涉集中在信號的位置,搞清楚對反應如何轉變是很容易想像的。但只經過幾分鐘的訓練,身體能不自覺的思考即對刺激反應。 “一旦舌頭上的刺激功能的概念準備妥當意味著你能在空間中定位。它的美麗在於它是非常直觀的,”泰勒說。 “它很快的從一個自覺的過程,進入到潛意識。”
When the prototype was finished, Bach-y-Rita went looking for a test subject. From a doctor friend, he learned of a patient named Cheryl Schiltz, who in late 1997 had suffered permanent damage to her vestibular system due to a rare reaction to an antibiotic. For three years, Schiltz had been living in a world seemingly made of Jell-O. Her body’s natural balance destroyed, she wobbled with every step, and everything in view jiggled and tilted. She wasn’t able to continue working, and even simple tasks such as baking cookies became an ordeal. Worst of all was the sense of isolation.

當原型完成後,巴哈- y-瑞塔去找一個測試項目。從一個醫生朋友,他聽說一為名叫 Cheryl Schiltz綺麗兒 施力茲,在1997年底由於對抗生素產生一種罕見的反應使她的前庭系統遭受到永久性損壞。三年來,Schiltz一直生活在一個看似由Jell – O吉露果子凍(一個果凍商標名)所創造的世界。她身體的自然平衡遭到破壞,她每一步都走的搖搖晃晃的,她所見的一切都似搖晃和傾斜。她無法繼續工作,甚至是如烘烤餅乾這類簡單的任務,也變成是種折磨。最糟糕的是有孤立感。

“You feel like you don’t know where you are in space,” says Schiltz. “There’s not a sense of belonging in your area, in your environment. It’s like you’re separated somehow.”

“你感覺不出你在空間的何處,”Schiltz 說。 “在你所在的區域或是環境沒有一個歸屬感,在您的環境。不知怎麼地你好像被隔開。“
Schiltz was skeptical when Bach-y-Rita explained how Wicab’s device might help restore her world. “My first reaction was, ‘I’m going to put something on my tongue and I’m going to get my balance back? Okay …’ ” she remembers. “Well, what have I got to lose?”

當巴哈- y-瑞塔解釋說 Wicab的設備可能會有助於恢復她的世界。Schiltz懷疑著, “我的第一反應是,’我準備在我的舌頭上放點東西,然後我的平衡感將回復?好….’“她回憶說。 “反正,我又有何損失呢?”

Leaning on a cane, she walked into Wicab’s office in fall 2001 to begin tests with Tyler and Danilov. With the green helmet on her head and the tongue display in her mouth, Schiltz sat and then stood, eyes closed, for trials of one hundred, two hundred, and three hundred seconds. And for the first time in years, she did not sway. With the electrical pulses on her tongue substituting for the signal the brain normally gets from the inner ear, Schiltz kept her balance. It was an amazing result — yet not the most amazing one.

在2001年秋季她拄著拐杖,走進 Wicab的辦公室開始和泰勒和丹尼洛夫試驗。在她的頭上帶著綠色的頭盔,在她的嘴放置舌頭顯示器,然後Schiltz坐著再站著,雙眼緊閉,作一百秒,二百,和三百秒的測試。這是首次在一年來,她並沒有搖晃。隨著她的舌頭上的電脈衝信號代替大腦從內耳得到的信號,使Schiltz平衡。這是一個驚人的結果 – 但不是最驚人的一個。
After one of the trials, Danilov removed the device from Schiltz’s mouth to see if she could remain still without it. “Don’t ask me why,” he says, “because it was completely out of protocol.” Schiltz indeed kept her balance for a short time, prompting Danilov and Tyler to launch a new set of investigations. Experimenting with different time periods, they found Schiltz was able to retain her balance for about one-third of the time she wore the helmet. After one hundred seconds, she held steady for thirty seconds before beginning to shake. After five minutes, the effect lasted nearly two minutes.

經過一整個的試驗後,丹尼洛夫去除了在Schiltz嘴巴的設備,看她沒有輔助是否還能能夠保持平衡。 “不要問我為什麼,”他說,“因為這是完全不在實驗範圍內。”但Schiltz確實可在一短時間裡維持平衡,促使丹尼洛夫和泰勒推出一套新的調查。在不同的時間段落嘗試,他們發現 Schiltz帶著頭盔只需她測試時間的三分之一光景即可維持平衡。經過 100秒後,她持穩 30秒後才開始搖擺。過五分鐘後,這效果持續了近兩分鐘。
Then one day a visiting colleague asked what would happen if they went beyond five minutes. “That’s when we got the breakthrough,” says Tyler. After using the device for twenty minutes, Schiltz opened her eyes and tilted her head. “I looked at Mitch and I said, ‘Something’s different,’ ” she recalls.

後來有一天,一位來訪的同事問如果他們超越了五分鐘會發生什麼。 “那時我們得到了突破,”泰勒說。使用該設備後 20分鐘,Schiltz睜開了眼睛,偏著頭。 “我看著米奇說,’有些地方不同了,”她回憶道。

Something was. Schiltz kept her balance for an hour that day. When she realized what was happening, she hugged Danilov and Tyler and burst into tears. “I literally ran around like a crazy lady,” she says. “I felt like I was healed.”

的確發生了什麼。 Schiltz在那天維持了一個小時的平衡。當她意識到發生了什麼,她淚流滿面的擁抱丹尼洛夫和泰勒。 “我就像個瘋狂的女人跑來跑去,”她說。 “我覺得我已經康復了。”

Subsequent trials with Schiltz and other patients proved twenty minutes to be the ideal “training” time. People enrolled now in Wicab’s formal clinical trials train with the BrainPort device for twenty minutes in the morning and afternoon. If the device works as Wicab believes it will, they should be able to maintain their balance for the rest of the day.
Schiltz和其他病人隨後的測試證實二十分鐘是理想的“培訓”的時間。現在登記於 Wicab的正式臨床試驗的人們,在上午和下午各戴著大腦通訊埠裝置約二十分鐘。如果設備工程如Wicab相信有用,他們應該能夠在其餘的日子維持平衡。
The results “blew the doors off all of our expectations,” says Tyler. “We never in our wildest dreams imagined we’d have this carryover effect that would be so sustaining.”

結果“超乎我們的期望,”泰勒說。 “在我們最瘋狂的夢想裡從來不曾想像這攜帶裝置的效果這麼有用。”
Moreover, Schiltz has found that after years of training with BrainPort, retention can stretch not simply over hours, but over weeks and months. She has gone for up to four months, in fact, without using the device at all.

One day, Schiltz handed Danilov her cane. “I said, ‘You take it. I don’t want it anymore,’” she recalls with a hearty laugh. Today it hangs on the wall of Danilov’s office.

有一天,Schiltz把她的手杖遞給丹尼洛夫。 “我說,’給你。我不想要它了“她用爽朗的笑聲回憶。今天,它仍掛在牆上的丹尼洛夫的辦公室。

Despite the progress of its scientific studies, by spring 2003 Wicab was still far from being a commercial enterprise that could deliver a product to market. The company continued to live in Bach-y-Rita’s seventeen-by-seventeen-foot campus lab, where an imaginary line separated his university research from his business venture. The scientists were similarly divided. As Wicab’s CEO, Bach-y-Rita still carried his full load of professorial duties. Kaczmarek acted as a consultant to the company while also conducting his own research. And Tyler valiantly tried to keep a hand in the science, even as he was pulled deeper and deeper into daily business imperatives such as payroll, insurance, and taxes.

儘管取得了其科學的研究,2003年春季Wicab可以將產品推向市場但離商業企業還很遠。該公司繼續住在巴哈- y-瑞塔的十七*十七英尺校園實驗室裡,那兒是分隔他的大學研究到達他的商業冒險的想像境地。科學家們同樣分歧。作為 Wicab公司首席執行官,巴哈- y-瑞塔仍然身負教授職務的重責。卡茲瑪瑞克在公司擔任顧問,同時也進行自己的研究。而泰勒即使一邊已深深,深入到日常的商務諸求如工資,保險和稅收等業務,一邊仍很勇敢的試圖在科學浸沐。

The company’s attention also was split between its balance and vision applications. Wicab had received a pair of small-business grants totaling $1.7 million to bring each of the technologies closer to commercialization, and Tyler was both thrilled and daunted by the work ahead.

該公司在的平衡和視覺應用的注意方向也被分裂。 Wicab收到了小型企業共170萬美元的撥款,使每個技術趨向商業化,泰勒對今後的工作既興奮又沮喪。
“I had done a good job, but it was allconsuming,” he says. “At a certain point, you realize that in order to really push this thing forward, you need to bring in people who understand how the business world operates, how to organize the business in a way that’s ultimately going to be profitable. We as scientists and engineers — we didn’t have the skill set to do that.”

“我做了一件好的工作,但它也讓我消耗殆盡”他說。 “在某一點,你了解到,為了要真正推動這個事情前進,你需要帶入一個知道如何在商業世界的運作的人,如何組織企業以有利可圖的方式前進。作為科學家和工程師的我們 – 我們沒有足夠的技能這樣做。“

At Tyler’s request, Bach-y-Rita began searching for professional management. A couple of interim CEOs came and went. And then, troubled by a persistent cough, Bach-y-Rita went to the hospital in early 2004.

因應泰勒的要求,巴哈- y-瑞塔開始尋找專業的管理。數個臨時首席執行長來了又去。然後,飽受持續咳嗽的困擾,巴哈- y-瑞塔於 2004年初去醫院檢查。

 “I went into the emergency room thinking I had bronchitis and came out with a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer,” he said. “That was … that was shocking.” At the time, Bach-y-Rita was given only a few months to live. The prognosis sent the dynamic scientist into a frenzy of sorts, says his wife, Esther. “His first reaction was, ‘I have too many things I still want to do,’” she says. “And Wicab was one of the big enterprises.”

“我走進急診室時還認為只是得了支氣管炎,沒想到診斷出來了是IV期肺癌,”他說。“那…這真令人震驚。“當時,巴哈- y-瑞塔只被認定剩下數個月的生命。但對病情的預後反倒使活力的科學家陷入狂熱,他的妻子,艾絲特說。 “他的第一反應是:’我有太多的事情仍想做”她說。 “而Wicab就是其中最大的一個事業。”

 “I decided that one of the things I wanted to do with the months left to me was to make Wicab into a real business,” said Bach-y-Rita, “for the science, but also for my family.”

“我決定我最希望做的事之ㄧ是在我僅剩的幾個月時間能促使Wicab成為一個真正的企業,巴哈- y-瑞塔說: “不僅為了科學,也為了我的家人。”
To help him do that, Bach-y-Rita turned to Bob Beckman, a veteran businessman with a history of making early-stage companies successful. As vice president of finance at Madison’s Lunar Corporation, Beckman had played a pivotal role in guiding the early-stage medical device company, and its spin-off, Bone Care International, both of which were bought by larger firms. Seeking a new opportunity, he took a suggestion from WARF managing director Carl Gulbrandsen and attended a couple of Wicab company meetings. Quickly he perceived what the star-gazing scientists could not: if Wicab focused exclusively on the balance device, it could bring a product to market in the very near term.


為了幫助他做到這一點,巴哈- y-瑞塔轉向鮑勃貝克曼,一位能將草創期公司發展成功經驗老到的商人。曾在麥迪遜Lunar公司擔任財務副總裁,貝克曼指導早期醫療設備公司,發揮了舉足輕重的作用,以及他的分支機構,骨質保護公司,兩者都被大公司收購。為尋找一個新的機會,他聽從沃夫常務董事Carl Gulbrandsen的建議,參加了幾個Wicab公司會議。他很快的察覺到這些觀星的科學家不能覺察的事:如果Wicab能專注於平衡裝置,它可以在短期內把產品推向市場。

He also realized the market was substantial. Although exactly how many people suffer from chronic balance disorders is unknown, Wicab estimates that one million Americans could benefit from BrainPort — and many more internationally. Moreover, the lack of therapies for patients with severe balance problems means Wicab isn’t confronting the same head-to-head competition faced by most fledgling medical device companies.

他也意識到市場極大的價值。雖然究竟患有慢性平衡失調的人數多寡仍是未知,Wicab估計有100萬名美國人以及在更多國際間能夠受益於大腦通訊埠 -。此外,缺乏有嚴重的平衡問題治療的病人意味Wicab不能對抗相同新興的醫療器械公司正面交鋒的競爭。

To Beckman, the numbers all added up to one thing — a chance to make a difference. “That was very, very intriguing to me,” he says, “because it meant that, if successful, the company would provide a benefit to people who had nowhere else to turn.”

對貝克曼來說,所有的數據加起來就成為一件事 – 有機會改變。 “這對我是非常,非常有趣的”他說,“因為它意味著,如果成功,該公司將提供給走投無路的人一個受益的機會。”
In December 2004, Beckman joined Wicab as CEO, while Bach-y-Rita became the company’s chairman of the board. Sweeping changes took place immediately.

在2004年12月,貝克曼加入Wicab擔任首席執行官,而巴哈- y-瑞塔則成為公司的董事長。隨即發生翻天覆地的改變。
The group’s free-flowing, hours-long discussions became succinct business meetings. Beckman began to pursue venture capital from outside investors. He also started bringing in an entirely new team with experience in product development, FDA regulations, and clinical trials. With their roles at Wicab dwindling, Kaczmarek and Tyler eventually returned to the university and to basic research, their first love.

The star chart made its exit, too. “Bob told me, ‘You have a lot of good ideas, each of which could be a product,’ ” said Bach-y-Rita, “ ‘but we have to concentrate on one.’ ”

星象圖也讓它退出了。 “鮑勃告訴我,’你有很多好的想法都可能成為一個產品,’” 巴哈- y-瑞塔說:“’但是我們必須集中於一個’。”

Beckman determined that the company would suspend work on the vision technology, which at first was tough news for Bach-y-Rita to take. Since the earliest days of his research, vision substitution had always interested him the most.

貝克曼決定,該公司將暫停視覺技術的工作,起初對巴哈- y-瑞塔來說接受這消息是很艱難。從最早他的研究開始,視覺替代始終是他最感興趣的研究。

Yet personal circumstance would soon lead him to see things differently. During summer 2005, Bach-y-Rita began having difficulty standing up, and he suffered a couple of falls. At first, the family thought his aggressive cancer therapy had simply weakened him, Esther says. But then another possibility dawned on them. Since one of his cancer drugs was known to damage the inner ear, perhaps his vestibular system had been harmed. A training session with the balance device was soon arranged.

然而,個人情況將很快導致他看待事物不同。在2005年夏天,巴哈- y-瑞塔開始站起來有困難,他也數次跌倒。起初,家人不過是以為他的侵略性癌症治療削弱了他,艾斯特說。但後來他們明白了另一種可能性。他的抗癌藥物之一已被知可破壞內耳,也許他的前庭系統已受到傷害。一個平衡裝置的培訓課程很快的安排了。

“It just seemed obvious to all of us, including Paul, that this was something he should try,” says Tyler.


Schiltz, who had moved from being Wicab’s head test subject to its first clinical coordinator, was there to help Bach-y-Rita during an early session. As he stood with the device in his mouth, the man Schiltz considers her hero wobbled so much that she hovered behind him, hands out, to catch him should he fall. Eventually she felt comfortable enough to sit behind Bach-y-Rita in a chair.

Schiltz,這位已從Wicab的頭部受測者移走的第一個臨床協調員,是來幫忙巴哈- y-瑞塔的早期訓練階段。當他藉由在他的嘴裡設備站立,這名被Schiltz視為英雄的男子搖晃的太厲害,以至於她停在他身後,當他跌倒時伸出雙手抓住他。最終,她覺得坐在巴哈- y-瑞塔後面的椅子上較自在。

Twenty minutes later, Bach-y-Rita had recovered his balance in just the same manner as she had years earlier. Witnessing it, Schiltz began to sob. “What he had done for me, now I was doing for him,” she says. “How much more full circle can you get?”

二十分鐘後,巴哈- y-瑞塔用她多年前同樣的方式已恢復了平衡。見證事實,Schiltz開始抽泣。 “他以前為我所作的,現在我回饋於他,”她說。 “這是多麼的圓滿?”

 The commercial version of Wicab’s BrainPort balance device is now as modern and pleasing to the eye as the company’s new home in Middleton, Wisconsin. Gone is the green helmet; the accelerometer it carried has moved inside the mouthpiece. Gone, too, are the computer and bulky metal box to which early prototypes had to be connected. With a miniaturized circuit board about one-third its original size, BrainPort has shrunk to the size of a video cartridge and hangs comfortably around the neck.

With sales of the balance device under way, research has resumed on vision substitution. Just as her predecessors did in earlier years, an energetic young scientist named Aimee Arnoldussen brings blind subjects into Wicab’s offices, her work supported by a grant obtained by Bach-y-Rita.

隨著平衡裝置銷售正在進行中,他們也恢復了視力替代的研究。正如她的前輩任前幾年所做的,一個充滿活力的年輕科學家命名的Aimee Arnoldussen為 Wicab的辦公室帶來研究盲人課題,她的工作得到了巴哈- y-瑞塔給予的資助。
Studies of the balance device also continue. Having stayed with Wicab through the transition, today Danilov spends much of his time searching for clinical collaborators willing to try BrainPort with their patients. More than one hundred people have now used it, including those suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Danilov says he has yet to hear of a patient who hasn’t experienced some change — whether dramatic or slight — after training with BrainPort.
平衡裝置的研究仍舊繼續。隨著陪伴 Wicab度過轉變期 現今丹尼洛夫大半時間花在尋找他的臨床合作者願意與他們的患者嘗試使用 BrainPort。目前已超過百人用過它,包括那些患有如帕金森氏症,多發性硬化和中風等疾病。丹尼洛夫說,經過大腦通訊埠培訓之後迄今他還沒有聽到一個病人沒有經歷過一些改變 – 無論是戲劇性式的或些微改變。

One monumental question remains. “There’s still a great mystery as to how it’s achieving its change in the brain,” says Tyler. “Clearly it’s augmenting brain function in these people’s nervous systems — the sensory-motor integration process. But we don’t quite know why or how.”

一個巨大的問題依然存在。 “還有一個很大的謎題是大腦如何完成這樣的改變”泰勒說。 “顯然,在這些人的神經系統- 感覺運動整合過程,使大腦的功能加強了。但是,我們也完全不知道為何或如何完成“。

Given his expertise with the nervous system, Danilov seems particularly overwhelmed by the enormity of the questions. If he had a thousand scientists at his disposal, he claims, he could put them immediately to work on two thousand BrainPort-related projects. “Scientifically,” he says, “it’s like the Klondike or Alaska.”

鑑於他對神經系統專業知識,丹尼洛夫對這些巨大的問題顯得不堪重負。如果有上千個科學家能與由他處置並共事,他宣稱即能立刻運作兩千個 BrainPort有關的計畫。 “科學的方法”,他說,“就像探索科朗代克或阿拉斯加。”

“The future is just phenomenal — what else can we discover with this?” says Tyler. “Paul has given us a great gift, a great vision. And now we get to run with it. That’s his legacy.”


“未來是太奇妙了 – 還有什麼我們可以再發現呢?”Tyler說。 “保羅給了我們一個偉大的禮物,一個磅礡的遠景。現在,我們執行他的遺志,薪火相傳。“
But no one felt the weight of the implications more than Bach-y-Rita. After his pioneering studies of brain plasticity and sensory substitution, he waited thirty years for technology to catch up to his vision. Even more time would pass before his “crazy ideas” gained acceptance in mainstream medical science. With BrainPort now opening up a wealth of additional possibilities, Bach-y-Rita would have loved nothing more than to chase them all himself.

但是,沒有人能像巴哈- y-瑞塔感受到牽連的重負。自他開創研究腦的可塑性和感官替代之後,等待了三十年才有技術可趕上他的遠見。即使他的“瘋狂的想法”被主流醫學接受已曠廢多時。 BrainPort現已開啟了多元的延展性,巴哈- y-瑞塔已愛屋及烏,以身作則。(校閱中)


On Wisconsin Magazine: Balancing Act (Spring 2007)
For a printer-friendly version of this story, click here [pdf]

I ‘don’t own this article , translated it only for studies.


Plasticity and The Senses: Paul Bach-y-Rita


感官與可塑性 : 保羅 巴哈-y-瑞塔

January 10, 2008


Added May, 2008: In December 2007 the PBS Wired Science show included a piece about Bach-y-Rita’s research.

Scientists Rewire the Brain through the Tongue is the written text, or you can view the video of the television segment Mixed Feelings.



5月新增: 200712月在(美國)公共廣播公司(PBS)科學線上節目展示了部份 巴哈– Y瑞塔的研究。



The first time I heard of Paul Bach-y-Rita was on a public television broadcast of a special show about the brain. The story of Paul Bach-y-Rita fills the first chapter of Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself.


我第一次聽到 保羅 巴哈– Y – 瑞塔是在公共電視台播出的一個關於大腦的特別節目。

保羅 巴哈– Y –瑞塔的故事也成為諾曼多奇的著作 改變是大腦的天性”  的第一章。(此書在台灣已付梓)

The stories of Bach-y-Rita – how his father recovered from a stroke and the impact this had on Bach-y-Rita’s career, the people with severe balancing issues who were essentially cured by his discoveries and innovations, and the people who had no vision who were able to begin to see – are compelling in and of themselves. They are very human stories, derived from the work of a man who was altruistically motivated.


巴哈– Y – 瑞塔的故事集 包含他的父親中風後如何康復以及對巴哈– Y – 瑞塔的事業生涯有何影響,藉由他的發現和創新治好有嚴重失衡問題的人,甚而眼盲者也能夠重新看見是那麼的引人入勝。那些非常人性化的故事,源於一個人其無私努力的動機。



A major contribution of Paul Bach-y-Rita’s to neuroscience was in thinking of the brain as “polysensory”, meaning that the sensory areas of the brain, rather than only processing information from just the senses that normally report to those areas, are actually able to process information from any of the senses. The stories referenced above, relating to balance and vision, rely heavily on the polysensory ability of the brain to take input from the tongue and route it to the areas of the brain dealing with balance or vision.


保羅 巴哈– Y – 瑞塔對神經科學的重大貢獻是,大腦的思想具“polysensory 多種感能的,意思是大腦的感覺區,不僅是只處理一般研究報告中認為大腦在各區域所應反應的訊息 ( 請參閱 ), 實際上而是更能夠處理來自任何感官的訊息。上面所引用,關於平衡和視覺的故事,很大程度上是依賴於大腦的多感覺能力使其接收來自舌頭的感應藉以連線至大腦使其處理平衡或視力。


Amazing? Absolutely! His work is a reminder of how adaptable our brains are, and makes me wonder how many more hidden secrets are waiting to be revealed. You can read more about the science behind Bach-y-Rita’s efforts in these articles:

On Wisconsin Magazine: Balancing Act (Spring 2007)

Discover Magazine: Can You See With Your Tongue? (June 2003)

Discover Magazine: Artifical Sight (August 2001)

College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Tongue seen as portal to the brain (2001)

神奇嗎? 當然了!他的工作提醒著,我們的大腦有其適應能力,使我驚異不知還有多少隱藏的秘密正在等待被發現。

你可以閱讀以下更多有關巴哈– Y – 瑞塔的研究成果:
Wisconsin Magazine:平衡的行動(2007年春)
探索雜誌:藉著舌頭看見什? 20036月)



本文出自 Neurons Firing  (校稿中)