Scientists Are Working On Brain Implants That Will Translate Thoughts Into Speech
Speech is a great deal of communication for human beings. Without it, trying to convey our thoughts would be far more difficult. When people are afflicted with certain illnesses, communicating with their voice becomes impossible. But, one brain surgeon is on the verge of creating something to solve that problem.
When the ability to speak becomes an issue, there are specific parts of the brain affected. Things like ALS, spinal injuries, and other paralyzing conditions rob people of that ability, but Dr. Ashesh Mehta may have a solution to help such patients.
Using a ‘brain-computer interface’ set on the parts of the brain that govern listening and speaking, Dr. Ashesh and others are hoping to give back patients who’ve lost it, the ability to speak again. Well, in a sense.
The interface is intended to translate a person’s thoughts into speech and allow people the ability to communicate what they’ve been saying silently in their heads.
Current technology only allows for BCIs to last for so long before needing replacement. In a lab setting they work as expected, but the real-world application is not yet in the immediate future because of their lack of durability.
Also, because of the sheer number of electrical impulses coursing through the brain, tapping into speech signals with accuracy will be difficult.
The first speech BCI was first developed in 2007 by Computational neuroscientist Frank Guenther of Boston University, but it only communicated vowels.
Advancements are slow but steady. Many researchers are even the smallest leap forward is a step in the right direction.
“We think we’re getting enough of an understanding of the brain signals that encode silent speech that we could soon make something practical,” says Brian Pasley of the University of California, Berkeley. “Even something modest could be meaningful to patients. I’m convinced it’s possible.”