WASHINGTON: For the first time in history, researchers belonging to the United States, have produced a neuroprosthetic device that allowed a paralyzed man to be able to form complete sentences by detecting his thoughts with brain waves.
An individual who is incapable of motility or talking can produce words and sentences through a computer utilizing his thoughts. The 36-year-old man, who was the subject of this experimental test suffered from a stroke at the age of 20, leaving him with anarthria, which rids the person to speak, but his cognitive functions continued normally.
Currently, the man is restricted to a word limit of merely 50 words and communicates at slow speech, with a rate of 15 words per minute. Each year, thousands of humans succumb to strokes, mishaps, or diseases which makes them lose their ability to speak. This device is limelight for many people allowing them to be able to communicate with others again.
Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, residing in San Francisco says, “This tells us that it’s possible. I think there’s a huge runway to make this better over time.”
Chethan Pandarinath, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech shares information about the device stating that a device that enabled people who can’t talk to communicate utilizing brain circuits will be more natural, and smooth to use in comparison to current assistive devices.
Prior research is majorly focused on reading brain waves through electrodes to generate mobility prosthetics that enable users to spell out the letters. This innovative method was intended to give more active and organic communication to users.
The UCSF researchers had already experimented by fixing electrode arrays on patients going through brain surgery and have standard speech. The electrode decoded the signals that regulate the vocal tract to display vowels and consonants and was also able to examine the patterns to foresee words. However, this concept was tried on a paralyzed person for the first time to show it could give a clinical advantage.
The future of electrodes in neuro-engineering :
The research team started a new study named ‘Brain-Computer Interface Restoration of Arm and Voice’, and BRAVO1 is the name with which the first participant has requested to be identified.
BRAVO1 suffers from a disastrous brainstem stroke, which left him with limited movements of the head, neck, and limb. He currently communicates with a pointer connected to a baseball cap to push letters on a screen. The researchers were able to generate 50 words that are used in everyday life by teaming up with BRAVO1. Later, researchers surgically inserted a high-density electrode covering his speech motor cortex.
Over the span of a few months, the team recorded BRAVO1’s neural activity as he tried to speak the 50 words and used the data to construct the patterns into words. To test the process, the team displayed the sentences on the screen, showing him the words he has spoken. The research team also recorded him answer a number of general questions, and used this data to confirm the tests as well.
Edward Chang, the neurosurgeon of BRAVO1 talked about this research, “To our information, this is the first successful presentation of direct decoding of full words from the brain activity of someone who is paralyzed and cannot speak,”
This research highlights that further progress in technology such as smaller surface electrodes might help develop the efficiency of this device even more.