Tapping into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak

For years, Pancho communicated by spelling out phrases on a pc utilizing a pointer hooked up to a baseball cap, an arduous technique that allowed him to sort about 5 right phrases per minute.

“I had to bend/lean my head forward, down, and poke a key letter one-by-one to write,” he emailed.

Last yr, the researchers gave him one other system involving a head-controlled mouse, however it’s nonetheless not practically as quick as the mind electrodes in the analysis periods.

Through the electrodes, Pancho communicated 15 to 18 phrases per minute. That was the most price the examine allowed as a result of the pc waited between prompts. Dr. Chang says sooner decoding is feasible, though it’s unclear if it’ll strategy the tempo of typical conversational speech: about 150 phrases per minute. Speed is a key cause the challenge focuses on talking, tapping immediately into the mind’s phrase manufacturing system slightly than hand actions concerned in typing or writing.

“It’s the most natural way for people to communicate,” he stated.

Pancho’s buoyant persona has helped the researchers navigate challenges, but additionally often makes speech recognition uneven.

“I sometimes can’t control my emotions and laugh a lot and don’t do too good with the experiment,” he emailed.

Dr. Chang recalled occasions when, after the algorithm efficiently recognized a sentence, “you could see him visibly shaking and it looked like he was kind of giggling.” When that occurred or when, throughout the repetitive duties, he’d yawn or get distracted, “it didn’t work very well because he wasn’t really focused on getting those words. So, we’ve got some things to work on because we obviously want it to work all the time.”

The algorithm generally confused phrases with related phonetic sounds, figuring out “going” as “bring,” “do” as “you,” and phrases starting with “F” — “faith,” “family,” “feel” — as a V-word, “very.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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