American biologists have created a neurochip that is able to read signals from the auditory cortex in real time and decipher what its owner hears or says. This technology will return the power of speech to paralyzed and dumb people.
“We have shown that we can directly read signals from the surface of the cerebral cortex in order to decipher what one person or another perceives or utters without spending much time on it. This is a big step towards creating neuroprostheses that return the power of speech to those people who are now deprived of it,” said Josh Chartier from the University of California, San Francisco (USA).
During the last 10 years, neurophysiologists managed to make a real breakthrough in the field of creating neural interfaces: a set of microchips, special electrodes and computer programs that allow cyber-limbs to be connected to the human brain and animals, even those senses that have no analogues in nature such as thermal imagers and x-ray imagers.
For example, in 2013, Brazilian and American scientists managed to unite the brains of two rats living thousands of kilometers from each other into a kind of “local network”, known as “organic computer” to teach them to share information.
Later, they created an analogous “collective mind” by combining the brains of three monkeys. Moreover, two years ago, other researchers were able to replace the damaged part of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain of mice, and set them free from the “groundhog syndrome”, the inability to remember new information.
In Chartier’s words, such success made many scientists to think whether it is possible to directly get thoughts from the centers of speech in the brain and voice them. The solution to this problem turned out to be a much more complicated than connecting new arms and legs to the body of a paralyzed patient.
This spring, Chartier and his colleagues has been able to solve it due to the fact that they did not try to decipher brain signals and directly “read” words and letters, but suggested that our speech centers encode not specific sounds, but sets of instructions for the muscles of the mouth larynx and vocal cords. This allowed them to “honestly” consider thoughts from the brain of several epileptics.
Having achieved such success, neurophysiologists from California tried to use the same technique in order to read not only thoughts from the volunteer speech center, but also from those brain regions that are responsible for processing information from the hearing organs.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website