Brain Waves Translated Into Words
Study proves electrodes can capture speech signals
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2010 2:23 AM CDT
The volunteer was asked to speak 10 words, including "yes" and "no," and "hungry" and "thirsty" as researchers attempted to decode his brain waves.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – University of Utah researchers have translated brain waves into words using microelectrodes planted over the brain's speech centers. They stress that although the technology is in its infancy—they could only distinguish the correct word from 10 possibilities half the time—the study proves that it can be done, and that the method could someday help severely paralyzed people communicate.

"We now need to refine it so that people with locked-in syndrome could really communicate," the lead researcher tells CNET. "The obvious next step—and this is what we are doing right now—is to do it with bigger microelectrode grids. We can make the grid bigger, have more electrodes, and get a tremendous amount of data out of the brain, which probably means more words and better accuracy." The experiment was conducted on a volunteer who was already having part of his skull removed to locate the source of his severe epileptic seizures.