Tuesday 12 October 2010
In a recent study, researchers at the University of Utah successfully translated brainwaves into words, a huge breakthrough that could eventually give paralyzed patients a new way to communicate.
The trials, which involve placing a grid of electrodes directly on an epileptic subject's brain, are preliminary—only that one individual has been tested, and when the entire pool of words, ten in all, were used, they were only identified with 48% accuracy. But when limited simply to "yes" and "no," researchers were able read the brainwaves accurately 90% of the time.
Those results are extremely promising. Bradley Greger, a bioengineer at the University of Utah who worked on the studies, explains:This is quite a simple technology … based on devices that have been used in humans for 50 years now...We're pretty hopeful that, with a better design, we'll be able to decode more words and, in two or three years get approval for a real feasibility trial in paralyzed patients.
With some paralyzed patients' means of communication limited to blinking their eyelids or wiggling their finger, this research has profound potential.