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 Brain-Computer Interfaces Continue to refine: Speech

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Date posted: 23/06/2006

Brain-Computer Interfaces of BCI have been below the radar in the news lately, clinical trials continuing with BrainGate, and other systems, the various labs gathering data but not releasing any results.

That is finally starting to change now, with CyberKinetics incorporated latest announcements.

CyberKinetics make BrainGate, a Neural Interface System which was developed by Cyberkinetic's Chief Scientific Officer, John Donoghue.

"Our research was to investigate the electrical signals in the brain," says Donoghue, "and how they are transformed as these thoughts get changed over into actual control of your arm or your hand."

"One of the big breakthroughs in neuroscience is that we can tap into signals [from the brain], and we get many complex electrical impulses from those neurons," says Brown. "We can read out those signals, and by some not-to-complex mathematical techniques, we can put them back together in a way that we can interpret what the brain is trying to do."

"In this trial," he explains, "we've implanted a tiny chip in the brain and that tiny chip picks up signals about moving the arm." The signal is then converted into simple commands that can be used to control computers, turn lights on and off, control a television set. Or, as Donoghue explains, "control robotic devices like an artificial hand... or a robotic arm."

Meanwhile, Neural Signals Inc, another BMI specialist firm, is announcing real progress with their efforts to bypass the speech centres, allowing a true virtual voice.

Philip Kennedy, CEO and chief scientist of Neural Signals has implanted a chip to detect neuron firing patterns in the brain of a paraplegic man, whose brain is alert but who cannot even speak.

"We are presently detecting the pattern of firing in those signals and the pattern is associated with particular phonemes or word sounds that he is trying to produce," explains Kennedy. "We have done that mapping and now we are trying to detect them and send them back to him, so that he can actually produce the phonemes or sounds of words."

The result will be a computer synthesising his attempts to speak, and speaking for him.

Kennedy believes the future could bring a revolution as brain-computer interfaces are constructed using nanotechnology and getting information in becomes as easy as getting information out. "I imagine people will want to increase their memory," he says. "We can also expand our ability to calculate and maybe even have a direct communication, without a transmitter or cellphone."

"You are going to have individuals who have super-power of memories, calculation abilities and communication abilities and be far superior than the rest of us."

See the full Story via external site: www.cnn.com

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