Computer Cursor Can Be Controlled by Thought

Study participants moved it by thinking of sounds oo, ah, ee, and eh
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2011 7:54 AM CDT
The cursor moved in different directions when volunteers spoke, or merely thought, different vowel sounds.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – Advances in mind-reading technology have made it possible for people with disabilities to control a computer cursor using only their thoughts, say Washington University researchers. The team has demonstrated that people can move a cursor around a computer screen and "click" by thinking of a particular vowel sound—in this study, oo, ah, ee, or eh—when electrodes are planted directly on the surface of the brain, the BBC reports. Volunteers wore a "cap" of electrodes, but researchers believe the same results can be achieved with a much smaller surgical implant.

"We can distinguish both spoken sounds and the patient imagining saying a sound, so that means we are truly starting to read the language of thought," the lead researcher says. "This is one of the earliest examples, to a very, very small extent, of what is called 'reading minds'—detecting what people are saying to themselves in their internal dialogue."

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