Transforming Communication: Brain Implant for Speech
Brain implant. A team at Duke University made something amazing for people who have a hard time talking because of problems in their brains. They created a special device that can understand what someone wants to say by reading their brain signals. They shared their discovery in a special science journal called Nature Communications. This device could help people who can’t talk because of things like ALS or locked-in syndrome.
A Special Device for Talking
Dr. Gregory Cogan, who works at Duke, said that many people who have trouble talking face big challenges. The tools they have now to help them talk are slow and not easy to use. It’s like listening to a story read very slowly, much slower than how people usually talk.
Why the Old Tools Aren’t So Good
The problem is the sensors used to read the brain. They can only get a little bit of information, so it’s hard to know exactly what someone wants to say. Dr. Cogan worked with Dr. Jonathan Viventi, who’s good at making tiny, bendy sensors for the brain. Together, they made a tiny device with lots of small sensors.
Making Brain Sensors Better
The new device they made is very small, like a small stamp. It has 256 tiny sensors on a bendy piece of special plastic. These sensors can pick up specific signals from the brain, which is really important for understanding how people speak.
Testing the Special Device
The team tried out their device on four people having brain surgery for other reasons at Duke University Hospital. They put the device in for a quick 15 minutes while the patients were in surgery. During this time, they asked the patients to listen to made-up words and repeat them out loud. They wanted to see how the brain signals worked while the patients spoke.
Looking at the Results
A student named Suseendrakumar Duraivel looked at the data they got. He used a smart computer program to see how well it could guess the sounds based on the brain signals. The first results were good, with the computer guessing the sounds right about 40% of the time from just 90 seconds of recordings.
The Future of the Device
With some money from the National Institutes of Health, the team wants to make a wireless version of the device. This way, people won’t have to stay near a power source all the time, which is exciting.
Even though the device is cool, it still doesn’t work as fast as people talk normally. Dr. Viventi knows there’s a lot more to do to make it better and match how quickly people talk.
Looking to Tomorrow
This new device is just starting. There’s a lot more to do before it can help a lot of people. But this research is a big step in making tools that can help people who have trouble talking because of problems in their brains. The team got help from different places, like the National Institutes of Health, to make this happen.