Brain implants designed to control external devices like computers and bionic prostheses have typically focused on the brain’s motor regions as the input. At Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis clinical researchers decided to use the brain’s speech networks for input and were able to differentiate between four spoken or thought sounds.
The devices under study are temporarily installed directly on the surface of the brain in epilepsy patients. Surgeons like Leuthardt use them to identify the source of persistent, medication-resistant seizures and map those regions for surgical removal. Researchers hope one day to install the implants permanently to restore capabilities lost to injury and disease.
When scientists identified the brainwave patterns that represented these sounds and programmed the interface to recognize them, patients could quickly learn to control a computer cursor by thinking or saying the appropriate sound.
LINK: Technique for letting brain talk to computers now tunes in speech…
Abstract in Journal of Neural Engineering: Using the electrocorticographic speech network to control a brainâ€“computer interface in humans