American researchers have managed to “read” the words formed in the human brain! The new mind reading achievement will some day give to people who currently live in “silence” due to illness or injury the ability to talk.
Scientists from the Center for Innovation in Science and Technology, University of Washington placed an array of 64 electrodes on the scalp of four people suffering from severe epilepsy. The initial aim of this study was to examine what is happening in the brain of these patients and thereby is causing seizures. At the same time the electrodes controlled the brain areas which are considered to be responsible for speech. These are motor cortex, Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area. These brain regions produce 40 phonemes (distinguished vocal sounds in speech) which structure the English language.
Mapping of brain signals
The researchers found, as reported in the journal Journal of Neural Engineering, that each of these phonemes is associated with a unique signal in the brain. These signals can be detected either when a person is speaking loudly or when he is “talking” to himself without a sound to come out.
The researchers asked volunteers to produce four repeated sounds: «oo », « ah», «eh» and «ee». As the volunteers were producing sounds the specialists were able to detect the electrical signals of the brain corresponding to each sound.
Mind reading is possible
Dr. Eric C. Leuthardt, who led the study, said in an interview: “I do not claim that I can fully read the human mind because I can’t. But now I have evidence that it is possible.”
During the study the researchers also discovered that when a person thinks a word but does not express it, i.e. when his inner voice is speaking, the brain produces a different signal from that when he expresses it aloud.
However, these findings indicate that some day specialists will be able to “read” even the most inner thoughts of the human brain and to compare them with what he is saying.
Dr. Leuthardt believes that the results of the research will be able to give “voice” to people who currently can not communicate with those around them, for example those suffering from such neurological disorders as locked-in syndrome.
Perhaps, someday similar studies will lead to the development of new forms of communication based solely on the thought…