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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 ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:04AM (#33506678)

    I'm sure many other bilingual people that speak both languages frequently can probably say something similar.

    I have a good understanding of 4 languages and speak 3 fluently (English, Dutch, French, German)

    I can attest to this in a certain extend: My thoughts are often also in concepts, but the "context" of a language differs greatly and the way people express themselves in the different languages have different nuances. Often it depends on the context I'm thinking to which language I switch if I'm actually thinking in language. It feels like a post-process filter, where I sometimes conclude mid-sentence I don't have a translation for a specific word yet I'm in the process of actively verbalizing the concept or idea.

    The concepts that the languages describe are not just langual but also cultural and within your demography you're "on par" with the cultural nuances to be able to communicate.

    The languages I've been in contact with are a bit simular and related, but as an example the Spanish they speak in Cuba is a different one with different expressions as the Spanish in Spain, where the life-conditions are vastly different.

    So for me, it seems a grand challenge to come to a "babelfish", which translates universal concepts and where brainwaves are identical to recreate the same (or simular, or derived, or local) concept or idea.

    To me it seems these "thought reading machines" are just able to capture a brainwave pattern, associate a concept or word with it individually. Otherwise it would raise for me personally ALOT of additional questions and requires a readjustment of how I imagine the brain to operate and come into form through aging and learning.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:14AM (#33506698) Homepage Journal

    Do you think in English, or do you think in abstract thoughts that your brain then later makes you think were direct English? I think there's a bit of debate on that, and it is something that's difficult to test.

    A couple of things: when my wife switches between English and Cantonese her personality changes to suit the relevant culture. I can tell if she has been speaking Cantonese because she gets very aggressive. I think the behaviour is independent of language because sometimes she forgets to switch.

    Sometimes I can have an epileptic seizure which causes me to remember spoken words in English, but this is kind of a replay from memory. I can also experience feelings which have no associated words because they were generated by a seizure. These feelings have no relationship to language.

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @07:00AM (#33506902)
    1. What language do you count in?
    2. What language do you dream in?

    Out of pure interest, If you're bilingual as a child. What language do you count in?
    Most people who learn a new language as a teen or adult find it easiest to count or do maths in the first language learnt. Even when they’ve been living in their new country for several years.
    I found working with numbers in Japanese next to impossible. Until I used their money, now it’s effortless. Still can’t do times very well.

    Finally, What language do you dream in?
    My parents did the host family thing for foreign students. After the student had stayed for a couple of months and you could see a change in fluency. I liked to ask if they had started dreaming in English yet. The ones that didn’t would hit a plateau for much longer and progression took ages. Based on 15 years of observation growing up with different students from around the world trying to learn the English.

    My child is growing up bilingual. It’s nice to have some insight. - I still need to learn teh English; but that's another thing.
  • by telomerewhythere (1493937) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @07:31AM (#33507010)

    Which "speech center(s)"? There's two main regions, neither of which can do the job alone.

    Both.... From another article: "Each of two grids with 16 microECoGs spaced 1 millimeter (about one-25th of an inch) apart, was placed over one of two speech areas of the brain: First, the facial motor cortex, which controls movements of the mouth, lips, tongue and face -- basically the muscles involved in speaking. Second, Wernicke's area, a little understood part of the human brain tied to language comprehension and understanding."

    "One unexpected finding: When the patient repeated words, the facial motor cortex was most active and Wernicke's area was less active. Yet Wernicke's area "lit up" when the patient was thanked by researchers after repeating words. It shows Wernicke's area is more involved in high-level understanding of language, while the facial motor cortex controls facial muscles that help produce sounds, Greger says."

    As to the scary part, just wait till they get to the next step: 11x11 grids and not just 4x4

    Source for this info: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907071249.htm [sciencedaily.com]

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