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Turning Thoughts into Words


Electrode

Micro electrodes like this one were used to record brain signals to decode 10 words from a patient's thoughts.

Spencer Kellis, University of Utah

Brain-computer interfaces could someday provide a lifeline to "locked-in" patients, who are unable to talk or move but are aware and awake. Many of these patients can communicate by blinking their eyes, but turning blinks into words is time-consuming and exhausting.

Scientists in Utah have now demonstrated a way to determine which of 10 distinct words a person is thinking by recording the electrical activity from the surface of the brain.

The new technique involves training algorithms to recognize specific brain signals picked up by an array of nonpenetrating electrodes placed over the language centers of the brain, says Spencer Kellis, one of the bioengineers who carried out the work at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. The approach used is known as electrocorticography (ECoG). The group was able to identify the words "yes," "no," "hot, "cold," "thirsty," "hungry," "hello," "goodbye," "more," and "less" with an accuracy of 48 percent.

From Technology Review
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