The device that eavesdrops on the voices in your head: Mind-reaching machine could soon turn your secret thoughts into speech
- Scientists want reproduce speech from brain recordings in real-time
- Goal is to help those affected by motor disease such as Lou Gehrig's
- Such a novel device would communicate people's intended thoughts via an electronic speaker or writing device, the say
A mind-reaching machine that can translate thoughts into speech is coming closer to reality.
The research has been ongoing for several years, and recently, scientists successfully managed to playback a word that someone is thinking by monitoring their brain activity.
While there remains a long way to go, they say this could help victims of stroke and others with speech paralysis to communicate with their loved ones.
A mind-reaching machine that can translate thoughts into speech is coming closer to reality. The research has been ongoing for several years, and recently, scientists successfully managed to playback a word that someone is thinking by monitoring their brain activity
HOW THEY DID IT
Using electrodes placed on the surface of the language areas of the brain of awake patients, scientists monitored the pattern of electrical responses of brain cells during perceived speech.
The scientists then created a computer model that could match spoken sounds to these signals.
The researchers took a clever approach to overcome some important limitations.
For example, they accounted for the natural differences in sound timing when one is producing the same word twice, such as when thinking of the word then by uttering it.
Remarkably, the team was then able to decode speech when a person thinks of a specific word, from direct brain recordings.
Professor Robert Knight and his team at UC Berkeley have been studying how hearing words, speaking out loud and imagining words involves brain areas that overlap.
'Now, the challenge is to reproduce comprehensible speech from direct brain recordings done while a person imagines a word they would like to say,' said Knight, who is also the Founding Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Knight says the goal of the device is to help people affected by motor disease such as paralysis and Lou Gehrig's Disease.
'There are many neurological disorders that limit speech despite patients being fully aware of what they want to say,' Knight said.
'We want to develop an implantable device that decodes the signals that occur in the brain when we think about a word, then turn these signals into a sound file that can be reproduced by a speech device.'
Such a novel device would communicate people's intended thoughts via an electronic speaker or writing device, but the team still has a lot more research to conduct.
They have been able to reproduce a word a person has just heard on a machine, by monitoring temporal lobe activity in a neurosurgical setting.
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