PARIS: According to US researchers, a paralyzed man who is unable to talk or write was able to spell out over 1,000 phrases using a neuroprosthetic device that transforms his brain waves into whole sentences.
According to the first author of a recent report on the topic, Sean Metzger of the University of California San Francisco, “Anything is possible” was one of the man’s favorite words to spell out (UCSF).
A group of UCSF researchers demonstrated last year that a brain implant known as a brain-computer interface could translate 50 extremely popular terms when a man attempted to utter them fully.
They were able to decode him silently miming the 26 letters of the phonetic alphabet in the latest study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Therefore, if he was attempting to say “cat,” he would say Charlie-Alpha-Tango, according to Metzger, who spoke to AFP.
After that, a spelling interface crunched the data in real-time while identifying potential words or mistakes using language modeling.
More than 1,150 words, or “almost 85% of the information in genuine English phrases,” were successfully decoded by the researchers, according to the study.
They estimated that this vocabulary might be increased to more than 9,000 words, “which is essentially the number of words most individuals use in a year,” according to Metzger.
With a 6% error rate, the machine could decode about 29 characters per minute. That translated to almost seven words each minute.
The first subject in the Brain-Computer Interface Restoration of Arm and Voice experiment is identified as BRAVO1.
He had a stroke when he was 20 and, though his cognitive function was unaffected, it left him with anarthria, and the inability to speak clearly. He is now in his late 30s.
He often interacts by pointing at letters on a screen using a pointer that is affixed to a baseball cap.
Over his speech motor cortex, the researchers surgically placed a high-density electrode in 2019.
They have subsequently been able to track the various electrical signals generated when he attempts to utter different words or letters thanks to a port implanted in his skull.