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Turning Thoughts Into Words

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micro electrodes and Utah quarter

The micro electrodes shown here were used to record brain signals in order to decode ten words from a patient's thoughts.

Credit: Spencer Kellis / University of Utah

University of Utah researchers are developing a brain-computer interface that provides a way to communicate for people who are unable to talk or move but are awake and aware.

The Utah researchers recently demonstrated a method for determining which of 10 distinct words a person is thinking by recording the electrical activity from the surface of the brain. The technique involves creating algorithms that can recognize specific brain signals picked up by an array of electrodes placed over the language centers of the brain, an approach known as electrocorticography, says Utah's Spencer Kellis.

However, the technique currently can only produce results with about 48 percent accuracy, a rate that Kellis says must be improved. "I don't think even 60 percent or 70 percent accuracy is going to work for patients who cannot communicate in any other way and where there is no other margin for verification," he says.

From Technology Review
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