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Science Technology

Brain Implants Can Detect What Patients Hear 75

kkleiner writes "A group of 15 patients suffering from either epileptic seizures or brain tumors volunteered to allow scientists to insert electrodes into their brains. After neurosurgeons cut a hole in their skulls, the research team placed 256 electrodes over the part of the brain that processes auditory signals called the temporal lobe. The scientists then played words, one at a time, to the patients while recording brain activity in the temporal lobe. A computer was able to reconstruct the original word 80 to 90 percent of the time."
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Brain Implants Can Detect What Patients Hear

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  • Tech Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swsuehr ( 612400 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @07:12PM (#39052823) Homepage
    Earlier in my career when I had to do level 1 tech support I might have liked opportunity to cut holes in skulls to make sure people heard what was being said. However, *hearing* what's being said and actually processing that into meaningful and actionable instructions are two different things.
  • by alphamax ( 1176593 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @07:36PM (#39053161)

    Because a microphone that is on a person's body is going to pick up everything that person hears as well.

    And for that matter, it will probably be loads more reliable than trying to decode electrical signals that we are only just beginning to comprehend.

    Experiments such as this one are the reason we are beginning to comprehend the electrical signals in the brain. The goal of the experiment isn't to understand WHAT the patients are hearing, but HOW the patients are hearing.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @07:46PM (#39053253) Homepage

    That the electrical signals received by the brain from the ear would actually directly correspond to the actual soundwaves received by the ear...

    I'm sorry... but in what way is this any more revolutionary in discovery than the telephone?

    It's brain research. Plain and simple.

    They already have devices that can translate the sound waves received by the ear into electrical impulses that are sent directly to the auditory nerves to be interpreted by the brain. They're called cochlear implants.

    This, on the other hand, is reading how the other end of the line interprets the impulses -- what happens within the brain when the electrical impulses are received. We still don't know all that much about how the brain really works. But when you can read changes in the brain with sufficient fidelity to be able to deduce what word the brain is thinking about, you can be pretty sure your hunch about how the brain works is correct.

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