A new report from MIT Technology Review has incredible news for ALS patients and their loved ones worldwide.
A patient with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, set a new record for communicating via a brain implant, reaching 62 words per minute. The authors claim this is 3.4 times faster than the prior record for any kind of BCI (brain-computer interface) and begins to approach the speed of natural conversation. In comparison with regular speech, most people speak at a rate of 160 words per minute.
The achievement of patient “T12” was chronicled in a new study from Stanford University posted on bioRxiv.
“The brain-computer interfaces that [co-lead author Krishna Sehnoy’s] team works with involve a small pad of sharp electrodes embedded in a person’s motor cortex, the brain region most involved in movement. This allows researchers to record activity from a few dozen neurons at once and find patterns that reflect what motions someone is thinking of, even if the person is paralyzed. In previous work, paralyzed volunteers have been asked to imagine making hand movements. By “decoding” their neural signals in real time, implants have let them steer a cursor around a screen, pick out letters on a virtual keyboard, play video games, or even control a robotic arm. In the new research, the Stanford team wanted to know if neurons in the motor cortex contained useful information about speech movements, too. That is, could they detect how “subject T12″ was trying to move her mouth, tongue, and vocal cords as she attempted to talk?,” reports MIT Technology Review.
This breakthrough was co-authored by Krishna Shenoy, an influential researcher who, on the same day of the publishing, on January 21, tragically died from pancreatic cancer.
Shenoy was one of the leaders in the field of brain implants, specifically communication through brain interfaces. Their research was widely used around the world, including by projects like the controversial Neuralink.
You can read more about their impressive achievements in the MIT Technology Review article and read the research here.
*Image via the Brain-Computer Interface: Mysteries of the Brain NBC documentary found here.