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Biotech Medicine Science Technology

Translating Brain Waves Into Words 72

Posted by timothy
from the brain-tsunamis-too-intense dept.
cortex writes with an excerpt from the L.A. Times: "In a first step toward helping severely paralyzed people communicate more easily, Utah researchers have shown that it is possible to translate recorded brain waves into words, using a grid of electrodes placed directly on the brain. ... The device could benefit people who have been paralyzed by stroke, Lou Gehrig's disease or trauma and are 'locked in' — aware but unable to communicate except, perhaps, by blinking an eyelid or arduously moving a cursor to pick out letters or words from a list. ... Some researchers have been attempting to 'read' speech centers in the brain using electrodes placed on the scalp. But such electrodes 'are so far away from the electrical activity that it gets blurred out,' [University of Utah bioengineer Bradley] Greger said. ... He and his colleagues instead use arrays of tiny microelectrodes that are placed in contact with the brain, but not implanted. In the current study, they used two arrays, each with 16 microelectrodes."
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Translating Brain Waves Into Words

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  • by joeyblades (785896) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @10:15AM (#33508044)

    Technically, this is not reading, as in understanding, the speech centers. It's simply pattern matching. The speech center has a certain pattern of signals right before enunciating. A computer is trained to recognize that pattern and choose the appropriate word from a list.

    Such a system would not be able to speak words that are not in it's training dictionary.

    Moreover, the real flaw that I see is that this implementation requires that the subject actually be able to speak so that the system can be trained. There is no indication from this study or any other study that I know of to suggest that the patterns in one individual's brain would match the patterns in another individual's brain for the same situation. In fact, all current evidence is to the contrary. Everyone's brain is "wired" slightly differently and uses different synaptic patterns to accomplish the same actions.

    I'm not tryhing to belittle the study, but as usual, there's a lot more hype and excitement than is justified...

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser