Brain Implants Could Help People With Paralysis To Communicate Using Just Their Thoughts

“It enables a typing rate sufficient for a meaningful conversation.”

13/09/2016 17:55 | Updated 14 September 2016

Stanford scientists have developed brain implants which could soon allow people with paralysis to communicate use their thoughts alone.

Existing technology relies on tracking the movements of eyes or facial muscles, which can prove tiring. 

But the research team’s implants resolve that issue by tapping into the region of the brain which normally controls hand and arm movements

In the latest experiment, the researchers trained monkeys to click on letters which spelt out Shakespearean passages. 

They were capable of typing at a rate of 12 words per minute while using the tech. 

Reflecting on the test, Stanford’s Paul Nuyujukian said: “Our results demonstrate that this interface may have great promise for use in people.

“It enables a typing rate sufficient for a meaningful conversation.”

The team has recently made improvements to the technology after earlier versions proved slow and imprecise. 

Researchers have tweaked the algorithms used to translate the signals into movements on the screen. 

Humans using the system would communicate at a slower rate than 12 words per minute as they would need to decide what to write. 

But scientists don’t yet know exactly how much slower. 

Nuyujukian said: “What we cannot quantify is the cognitive load of figuring out what words you are trying to say.”

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