Researchers Successfully Turn Paralysed Man's Brain Waves into Words

Health News
2 min read
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In a medical breakthrough, researchers have successfully been able to harness a paralysed man's brain signals and render them into text on a computer screen.

The study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine successfully able to turn a paralysed man's thoughts into words with the help of electrodes implanted in his brain.

It is hoped that this study could further help people who have lost their speech to paralysis regain their ability to communicate, and improve overall quality of life.


How the Mechanism Works

The 38 year old man lost his speech in 2003 when he was paralysed after having a stroke as a result of a car accident.

The study describes how the researchers were able to harness his brain waves when he intended to say something and turn them into textual words on a screen.

“With speech, we normally communicate information at a very high rate, up to 150 or 200 words per minute,” said Dr Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery, University of California, San Fransisco, and the lead researcher of the study.

“Going straight to words, as we’re doing here, has great advantages because it’s closer to how we normally speak.”
Dr Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery, University of California

"My family is outside," was his first sentance.

How they did it:

According to the study, the researchers implanted a set of high density electrodes in the sensorimotor cortext–the part of the brain responsible for speech–of the patient.

In 48 sessions spread over 22 hours, the researchers then attempted to record cortical activity of the patient as he attempted to say 50 words.

As he attempted to form short sentences using this vocabulary of 50 words, the electrodes were able to translate them into text on a screen on by one.

They were ultimately able to render sentences from the patient's mind at an approximate rate of 15.2 words per minute.

They were also able to detect words with an error of 25.6 percent.


Looking Forward

“We were thrilled to see the accurate decoding of a variety of meaningful sentences. We’ve shown that it is actually possible to facilitate communication in this way and that it has potential for use in conversational settings.”
David Moses, PhD, lead author of the study

The study researchers specifically speak of its success in deciphering speech of patients who suffer from anarthria and spastic quadriparesis caused by a brain-stem stroke, but the team said they hope to expand the study to include more patients of severe paralysis.

“The study demonstrates the potential for this approach to give a voice to people with severe paralysis and speech loss,” added Moses.

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Topics:  Brain Cells   paralysis 

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