A 67-year-old ALS patient has broken speed records for using a brain implant to communicate.
The implanted device uses neural signals to detect the words she is trying to say, conveying them to a computer screen.
A team of researchers at Stanford University published a paper this weekend claiming their volunteer smashed previous records by using a brain-reading implant to communicate at a rate of 62 words a minute.
Identified only as ‘subject T12’, 67-year-old ALS patient was three times faster than the previous record.
Each year, thousands of people lose the ability to speak due to stroke, accident, or disease.
With further development, the approach described in this study could one day enable these people to fully communicate. Now, brain interfaces could let paralyzed people speak at almost normal speeds.
People without speech deficits typically talk at a rate of about 160 words a minute.
The subject of the study lost her power of speech to ALS, which causes progressive paralysis, eight years ago.
While she could still make sounds, her words had become unintelligible, needing her to use a writing board or iPad to communicate.
With the brain implant, the woman has been able to rapidly communicate phrases like ‘I don’t own my home’ and ‘It’s just tough’ at a rate approaching normal speech.
The study is yet to be formally reviewed by other researchers but other researchers called it a ‘big breakthrough’ and believe that brain-reading technology could become a useful product soon.
Previous studies with brain implants had successfully translated a paralysed man’s thoughts to text with 94% accuracy.
Brain implants were even found to reverse symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in experimental studies.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can restore communication to people who have lost the ability to move or speak.
In recent years, BCI technology has drawn the attention of tech companies that hope to commercialise it, including Elon Musk’s Neuralink Corp., Kernel and Facebook Inc.