Those who can’t speak on their own may one day be able to be heard out loud thanks to a new brain implant based out of New York.
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is developing a brain-computer interface system that lays on the surface of the brain. In the system, several electrodes are capable of detecting neural signals that have been sent by brain regions, which are for both perceiving and generating speech. The system can then decode the message by a computer in the laboratory.
Brain computer interface systems at the moment are not capable of creating a completely perfect brain signal to speech pathway. Meaning that people who were to use this new system would not be capable of generating very high level, well flowing language.
However, doctors do believe that those that are paralyzed or can’t speak for a variety of reasons would be able to inform their family or caregiver that they are either thirsty, hungry, or experiencing pain. Although these things may be rather simple, they are very important to get the message across.
It could also help doctors, potentially, determine whether or not comatose patients are awake or asleep at a certain time. At the moment, this system is being tested out on people who are undergoing brain surgery for severe cases of epilepsy.
However, there is doubt that this system will be available any time soon outside of the research laboratory. Brains implants are known to damage the brain, as well as for being commonly rejected by the nervous system. Especially since the devices wouldn’t last forever, many brain surgeries would be needed.