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Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak

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A patient utilizes a brain-computer interface to communicate.

Dr. Eddie Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School helped Pancho, a man paralyzed since age 20, speak through an implant in his brain that connects to a computer program.

Credit: Mike Kai Chen/The New York Times

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, "My family is outside."

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

From The New York Times
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