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publicado em 08/04/2011 às 03h00:00
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Brain-computer interface 'hear' the brain regions that control speech

Approach may help restore speech in patients who have lost their skills due to brain injuries

 
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Patients with a temporary implant surgery have used the brain regions that control speech to "talk" to a computer for the first time by manipulating a cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about a particular sound.

New approach, developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in the United States, may help restore speech in patients who have lost their skills due to brain damage.

Scientists generally program the temporary implants, known as brain-computer interfaces, to detect the activity in motor networks of the brain that control muscle movement.

"This makes sense when you are trying to use these devices to restore lost mobility - users can potentially involve the implant to move a robotic arm through the same brain areas that he or she once used to move an arm disabled by injury , "said lead researcher Eric Leuthardt. "But it has the potential to not be efficient for the recovery of a loss of communication."

Patients may be able to learn to think about moving their arms in a special way to say Hello from the computer. But researchers believe it would be much easier if they could say Hello using the same brain areas that once they used to their own voices.

How it works

The devices under study are temporarily installed directly on the surface of the brain in patients with epilepsy. Surgeons use them to identify the source of persistent seizures and drug-resistant and map these regions for surgical removal. The researchers hope will one day be able to install a permanent implants to restore lost capacity due to injury and illness.

Leuthardt and his colleagues have recently demonstrated that implants can be used to analyze the frequency of brain wave activity, allowing them to make finer distinctions about what the brain is doing. For the new study, the team applied this technique to detect when the patient says or thinks four sounds:

oo, as in few

and, as in see

a, as in say

a as in hat

When scientists identified the brain wave patterns that represent those sounds and programmed the interface to recognize them, patients could quickly learn to control a computer cursor, thinking or saying the appropriate sound.

In the future, interfaces can be adjusted to hear the speech only networks or networks both motor and speech, said Leuthardt.

As an example, he suggests that she might one day allow a disabled patient to use his motor region to control a cursor on a computer screen and imagine saying "click" when you want to click on the screen.

"We can distinguish between spoken sounds and the patient imagining say a sound, which means we're really starting to read the language of thought," he said. "This is an early example of what is called mind reading - detecting what people are saying to themselves in their internal dialogue."

The next step Leuthardt and his colleagues is to find ways to distinguish what they call "higher levels of conceptual information."

"We want to see if we can not simply detect when you are telling the dog, tree, tool, or some other word, but also learn how the pure idea of ​​the word appears in the mind. It's exciting and a little scary to think of reading minds, but it has incredible potential for people who can not communicate or suffer from other disabilities. "

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