newly There have been great advances in technological systems that allow people to control devices using brain signals. Eddie Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, Weill Neuroscience Institute in San Francisco and co-author of one of the studies, says: in nature”That we were finally able to show what is possible.
“We implanted a sheet of silicon the thickness of a sheet, about the size of a credit card and covered with more than 250 electrodes, on the surface of the brain of a paralyzed woman,” says Dr. Chang. The patient had previously suffered a brainstem stroke and since then was unable to speak or use her arms and legs. That was about 18 years ago.
As the scholars explain, The brains of paralyzed people can still emit electrical signals to control movementAlthough the communication channels between the brain and the muscles remain severed.
The implant picked up the signals
The patient received a special implant I began to pick up the signals designed to control the muscles. Specifically, the speech muscles were in her tongue, jaw, throat, and face.
Appropriate electrodes were connected to computers via a cable connected to a port attached to the patient’s skull. Then the researchers had to spend some time training the algorithm to recognize the patient’s brain signalsrelated to speech and facial expressions.
The training was for two weeks On the screen, the woman was shown words and phrases that she had to repeat in her mind. The patient was also supposed to imagine sad, happy and surprised facial expressions, as suggested by the specialists. Computer algorithms constantly recorded her brain signals while she performed all of the above tasks. Thanks to this, they can learn and adjust the work of the entire computer system.
Subsequent training consists of presenting new sentences to the patient and asking them to repeat them in her mind. At the time, algorithms were supposed to “decode” her brain signals and then translate them into text and speech.
This is where the current technological advances come in. It turns out The latest solution can translate sentences at 78 words per minute – that’s five times faster than previous brain-computer interfaces. For a woman of about 50, a group of about 1,000 words was prepared in a relatively short time, and the system was able to recognize them in about 75 percent. cases.
And that’s not all, the paralyzed woman also got a talking avatar. She chooses a virtual character who appears on the screen and says the individual words. The researchers went further and asked the family to provide some audio recordings of the woman while she was still in good health. They received a video of her wedding where she spoke to the camera. They used it to customize the avatar’s voice so that it sounded roughly the same as the patient did when she was still able to speak.
The 68-year-old is able to communicate again
The second case was described immediately in Nature, this time involving a 68-year-old patient who used a slightly different technological regimen.
She received four sensors, each about the size of a popcorn kernel, which were filled with electrodes. It was implanted in the outer layers of her brain, a They are then linked to computers trained on artificial intelligence to see which patient brain signals correspond to speech.
The woman in question was diagnosed 11 years ago with maxillary muscular atrophy. This is Lou Gehrig’s, a progressive neurodegenerative disease It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to progressive muscle wasting. There is no cure, and treatment is primarily focused on relieving symptoms and improving patients’ quality of life.
A 68-year-old female patient became so ill that she could no longer speak clearly. Researchers at Stanford University created the Brain Interface System and began implementing training sessions that lasted four months. These were sessions in which the system recognized brain signals and translated them into textUntil he reached a level of about 62 words per minute. A group of about 120,000 were used during the work. Word accuracy was achieved at approximately 76 percent. cases.
This was a major breakthrough, Dr. Jamie Henderson, professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and co-author of the study, told Nature. “It may allow you to achieve true fluency in the future and restore your ability to communicate and communicate with others,” he said.
This is not the end of the possibilities. If scientists perform a more invasive procedure, by placing the appropriate sensors deeper, they could gain the ability to read the signals of individual neurons. As a result, the accuracy and quality of the brain-computer interface will be higher.
Technology, as you can see, is improving by the day in providing a voice to those who have lost it. The invasiveness of the process remains a constraint, but so is the high cost. More research and improvement of these systems is needed, but it is expected that they will be delivered to more patients in the coming years.
Author: Grzygorz Kobra, Business Insider journalist, Poland
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