Many people around the world are losing the ability to communicate through language. This can happen through illness, accident or stroke. They cannot move their lips, open their mouths, or even speak. However, they invent a technique called speech neuroprosthesis that gives them hope.
The neuroprosthesis of language enables them to communicate with their thoughts
Scientists at the University of California were able to communicate with these people through a neuroprosthesis. After all, they called it the “neuroprosthesis of language”. This technology enables those who cannot communicate to do so through their thoughts.
This is currently only possible via a keyboard on which the patient types in what he would like to express. In this way, it forms the words that appear on a computer screen.
An investigation with positive results
The scientists used the technique of speech neuroprosthesis in a man with severe cerebral palsy. It was possible to communicate with sentences that the neuroprosthesis is responsible for translating. It interprets them from the signals that the brain sends to the vocal tract and creates sentences that appear on a computer screen.
This successful attempt dates back to almost ten years of research by the UCSF science team under the direction of Dr. Edward Chang back. The premise was to develop a technique that would enable people with cerebral palsy to communicate. The successful study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine just a few days ago.
Details of the study from which the speech neuroprosthesis emerged
The study initially began with patients from the UCSF Epilepsy Center. These patients were neurosurgically placed an electrode to determine the origin of their seizures.
Everyone could speak without any problems. Still, they allowed them to analyze their brain activity. Through this analysis, they localized the brain activity that leads to speech. The success with these patients encouraged Dr. Chang and his team to try the neuroprosthesis in patients with cerebral palsy. The study was commissioned by Bravo, for Brain Computer Interface Restoration of Arm and VOice.
The first patient is 30 years old. More than 15 years ago he had a stroke that “separated” his brain from the rest of his body. He cannot move his limbs or his mouth. For him, all communication consisted of pointing letter by letter on a screen with a baseball cap and a pointer. The young man’s movements are limited to his head, neck and, to a lesser extent, his limbs.
Dr. Chang has developed an algorithm that can interpret a vocabulary made up of more than 50 words. This vocabulary is made up of the most commonly used words like water, food, family, etc.
To conduct the study, electrodes were implanted into the young man using neurosurgery. Over a period of several months, 48 sessions were carried out in which more than 20 hours of neuronal activity of the brain were recorded.
With the recorded patterns, the team worked with advanced algorithms to interpret what these neural signals meant. This is just the beginning of a long process that will allow people who cannot express themselves to understand.