Language Advantage
April 1, 2019

The future is here: scientists are reading minds.

Researchers have now uncovered how to decode thoughts and turn them into verbal speech.

The breakthrough.

Recent studies by neuro-engineers at Columbia University have rocked the science community. Researchers have discovered an innovative way to decipher internal thoughts. The technology will also allow them to translate thoughts into tangible and recognizable speech. Essentially, the team has designed a system that decodes brain activity into verbal communication.

How it works.

This research has spanned decades. It’s been discovered that when people imagine talking there are specific patterns of activity that occur in the brain. These distinctive brain patterns are also the same when we talk, listen to someone else speak, or just imagine that we’re listening. Neuro-engineers at Columbia has been attempting to decode these patterns to decipher them into speech. They hope that eventually this translation can happen automatically.

The technology that is currently being tested is a vocoder. This computer algorithm is actually used by people all over the world on a daily basis. It’s the same technology that makes Apple’s Siri understand respond to verbal questions. Scientists are attempting to get the same technology to interpret brain activity.

Epileptic research.

Dr. Mesgarani, the principal investigator at Columbia has teamed up with Dr. Mehta, who currently works with epilepsy patients. They work closely with a group of these patients who listen to sentences while their brain activity is measured. The neural patterns that occur when they listen trains the vocoder to decipher and understand inner-thoughts.

They found that approximately 75% of the epileptic patients could understand and internally repeat the sounds that they heard. This is a significant leap in the research behind neural brain activity. Researchers are already preparing further tests to delve into more complicated words and sentences. In the future, this system could be used as an implant that translates thoughts into speech.

What this means.

According to Dr. Mesgarani, “losing the power of one’s voice due to an injury or disease is so devastating…with the right technology, these people’s thoughts could be decoded and understood by any listener”. The future possibilities of this innovative technology are far-reaching. Researchers are already discussing how this system could be a game changer in the medical community. It would enable people who can’t speak due to illness or injury to express themselves, connect with others, and improve their quality of life.

Source: Science Daily