Researchers in the United States have created a sensor that can be implanted in the brain that allows you to think about letters and see them appear written on a computer screen.
This unprecedented technology could give paralyzed people the ability to communicate in writing without needing to use their hands, said Krishna Shinui, a researcher at Stanford University, one of the co-authors of the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
In this study, researchers were able to decipher the activity that occurs in the brain when attempting to write letters by hand and implanted a sensor in the brain of a person paralyzed with a cervical spine injury.
Then they used an algorithm to determine the letters when the volunteer tried to type them, translating the brain activity in real time into characters that appeared on the screen.
Because these characters are handwritten, an average of 90 characters per minute was achieved, more than double what was achieved using the brain-computer “interface” in previous experiments.
“The sensor decodes the thinking associated with writing and produces action,” sums up researcher Jose Carmina, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who called the study “a major breakthrough in the field”.
“This system utilizes both fertile neural activity recorded by electrodes between the cortex and the power of language models that, when applied to decoded characters, can generate text quickly and honestly,” said lead researcher Frank Willett.
The study volunteer was a 65-year-old man who was paralyzed from the neck down and placed two aspirin-sized electrodes on the part of the brain associated with him that is responsible for the movement of his right arm and right hand.
Using the signals detected by sensors on individual neurons when a man imagined writing, the algorithm recognized the patterns his brain produced when he thought of each letter.
Using this system, the man was able to transcribe phrases and answer questions at the same rate that a person could do when typing on a cell phone.
The speed of the system is due to the specific activity that each letter unleashes in the brain, allowing the algorithm to distinguish them.
The study was conducted as part of the Braingate Collaborative Project, which brings together researchers from Brown, Harvard, Stanford Universities, Case Western Reserve, Massachusetts Hospital and Medical Center in Providence Virginia, Rhode Island.