Monday, September 27, 2010

Turning thoughts into words - extracting info from brain is now possible..!

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Brian interface: 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

You may be knowing about the locked-in syndrome (if you aren't.. click HERE ). The major problem with these patients is communication. Usually they communicate by blinking their eye but its not an easy job to convert the blinking into words.

So scientists have been trying to figure out a new way to enable communication with these locked-in patients ( there is another way also...."sniffing...!!" but how..? click me ). The scientists from Utah have come up with an amazing way to determine which of 10 distinct words a person is thinking by recording the electrical activity from the surface of the brain...!!

How do they do it...??!!
  • An array of nonpenetrating electodes will be attatched to the language centers of the brain (refer the image above )
  • the method also consists of special algorithms to recognize specific brain signals picked up by these electrodes.
  • till now they have been able to identify the words "yes," "no," "hot, "cold," "thirsty," "hungry," "hello," "goodbye," "more," and "less" with an accuracy of 48 percent.
  • This appoach is known as electrocorticography ( ECoG ).
There are some more methods to do this other than ECoG. Such as...
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging ( fMRI ) is used to decode words from brain signals. so why ECoG...?? Because it provides a more practical and portable approach to do the same work.
  • electroencephalography ( EEG ). Its a little more non invasive than ECoG. But still ECoG is preferred. Why..?? Because in EEG, many of the signals are filtered out by the skull.
The only major drawback to be overcome in this procedure is the accuracy. "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," says Leuthardt, one of the scientista behind this research.

Lets hope this procedure is developed enough to establish a sophisticated communication...:)

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