A man unable to move or speak is now able to communicate his thoughts using a computer.
Science has paved the way for this technology, which comes from an experimental implanted device located in the man’s brain. The device relays information from brain activity that used to control his vocal tract to text on a computer. While he can only use 50 words and communicates around 15 words per minute, the implications this tech has for future study is promising.
The man in this study suffered a stroke 15 years prior, and had paralyzed muscles in his vocal tract. The research team who conducted the study noted they were unsure if signals in the brain could be revived for speech and translated into full words. The process of relating the electrical activity in the man’s brain to his attempts at speech took months of adjustments, but was successful in the end.
This type of technology could do wonders in the healthcare system. Current tech for those with paralysis generally utilize head or eye movements that track letters one-by-one, or control a computer cursor to parse out words.
Health care groups might be able to use the device to help with those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). An expanded vocabulary could be an option in the future.
The science and technology used for these concepts has yet to address the lack of privacy that might come from these types of devices. Having something wired to your brain and solely recording electrical activity means even your private thoughts could be transmissible to the public.
The good news is that signals from your brain to your muscles offer a privacy buffer from your thoughts. In this instance, only things you were already planning on saying (based on vocal tract movements) would be recorded.
As time goes on, it may eventually be possible for people who have been paralyzed to fully communicate using only computers.
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