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US Scientists turn Brain Waves into Actual Words

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Electrodes distributed over the brain of a volunteer

A new study conducted in the University of California has enabled scientists to find a way to decipher actual words from human brain waves.

A team of neuroscientists worked with a group of epileptic patients who were under the treatment for difficult curable seizures.

They placed electrodes in a part of brain which is involved in understanding speech.

They recorded brain waves while the participants were listening to a series of words and then created computer programs that could recognize sounds encoded in the waves.

The brain break sounds down into their constituent acoustic frequencies and analyzes each part in a different region, scientists explained in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.

“There is some evidence that perception and imagery may be pretty similar in the brain. If you can understand the relationship well enough between the brain recordings and sound, you could either synthesize the actual sound a person is thinking, or just write out the words with a type of interface device,” said study leader Brian Pasley of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Researchers are still a long way from actually reading people’s minds, but it may be possible one day,” he added.

Although the new research may sound like scary science fiction, it can have enormous positive uses for patients who have lost their speaking ability.

“This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak,” co-author Robert Knight. “If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands of people could benefit.”


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