Use the brain to help paralyzed men speak

For years, Pancho communicated by spelling words on a computer using a pointer attached to a baseball cap. This was a painstaking way to allow you to enter about 5 correct words per minute.

“I had to bend my head forward, tilt it down, and poke the key letters one by one,” he emailed.

Last year, researchers gave him another device, including a mouse that controls his head, but it’s still not as fast as the brain electrodes in a research session.

Pancho transmitted 15-18 words per minute through the electrodes. This was the maximum rate allowed in the investigation because the computer was waiting between prompts. Dr. Chan says it’s unclear if it will approach the pace of typical conversational speech, but faster decoding is possible: about 150 words per minute. Speed ​​is the main reason the project is focused on speaking and uses the brain’s word generation system directly rather than the hand movements associated with typing and writing.

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

Pancho’s buoyant personality has helped researchers navigate tasks, but it can also make speech recognition uneven.

“Sometimes I can’t control my emotions, laugh a lot, and the experiment goes wrong,” he emailed.

Dr. Chan recalls when the algorithm successfully identified the sentence, “I could see him visibly shaking and he seemed to be laughing a bit.” I did. When it happened, or during repetitive tasks, when he yawned or distracted, “It worked so well because he wasn’t really focused on getting those words. So obviously I always want it to work, so there are a few things to work on. “

Algorithms can confuse words with similar sounds, “go” to “bring”, “do” to “you”, words starting with “F” (“faith”, “family”, “feel”) Is identified as V. -The word “very”.

Use the brain to help paralyzed men speak

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