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Talking Brain in a Jar

Popular Science:<blockquote>By measuring the electrical signals made in certain parts of the brain when its thinking of certain words, researchers could create a means to translate thoughts into speech.

In an effort to unlock the speech capacity in patients who cannot speak because of so-called “locked-in syndrome,” University of Utah researchers have successfully demonstrated that they can translate brain signals into words using electrode grids placed beneath the skull. Sort of.

The method leaves a lot of room for improvement, but it does prove out some technology that could make thought-to-speech technology more reliable for patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries or illnesses that render them unable to communicate with others. Using two grids of 16 microelectrodes placed over two regions of the brain known to generate human speech, the team was able to record brain signals for 10 useful words – yes, no, hot, cold, thirsty, hungry, goodbye, hello, more and less – and use that data to discern between any two words a patient was thinking between 76 and 90 percent of the time.</blockquote>

Written on September 15, 2010