Good news for paralyzed people, experts are trying to translate their thoughts.
Researchers are a step closer to reading a person’s mind. They will soon begin translating brain signals of a paralyzed man into sounds. In a pioneering experiment, scientists from the Boston University say they may be able to interpret the thoughts of a man who can no longer speak, reports BBC News website. Electrodes have been implanted in the brain of Eric Ramsay, who has been “locked in” — conscious but paralyzed — since a car crash eight years ago. These have been recording pulses in areas of the brain involved in speech. Now, New Scientist magazine reports, they are to use the signals he generates to drive speech software.
Ramsey, who can communicate only through eye movements, despite being fully aware, has been asked to concentrate on imagining the vowel sounds “oh”, “ee” and “oo” while scientists examine the patterns of activity that the electrodes record. Dr Jonathan Brumberg, of Boston University, who presented the results at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, said that the team was about to begin translating these thoughts into synthesized sounds through a computer. Ramsey will then be able to provide direct feedback on whether the sound is correct, allowing him to tune the system for accuracy. The ultimate aim is to enable him to speak through the computer, purely by thinking of the sounds he wishes to say.
Although the data is still being analyzed, researchers at Boston University believe they can correctly identify the sound Ramsay’s brain is imagining some 80% of the time. In the next few weeks, a computer will start the task of translating his thoughts into sounds. “We hope it will be a breakthrough,” says Joe Wright of Neural Signals, which has helped develop the technology. Experts in the field of neuroscience agreed it was an exciting advance. “It hasn’t come completely out of the blue,” said professor Geraint Rees, a neuroscientist at University College London.
“We have been moving towards decoding primitive vocabulary for a while now. But this is certainly an interesting development, although invasive techniques, where something is out in someone’s brain, such as these will of course carry risks.”
Reading people’s minds remains a far-off prospect, however. “There is a huge difference between a technique like this, which is able to pick up signals the subject wants to be picked up, and being able to delve deep into the mind,” says professor John Dylan Haynes of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.
“It’s very exciting that we are starting to be able to translate some basic thoughts, but we are lot further away from a universal mind reading machine than some people hoped, or feared, we may be five years ago.” Indiatimes.
Tags: Paralysis , Brain Signals , Electrodes ,
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