Brain Implant: An experimental device that converts thoughts into text, released Wednesday (12) in the journal Nature, could represent a revolution in the treatment of total paralysis due to spinal injuries. Implanted in the brain of a quadriplegic man, the device allowed him to write letters on a computer screen simply using his imagination.
The man, who was able to type letters with 95% accuracy, is unable to speak or move either his arms or his legs after a domestic accident that left him completely paralyzed. With no prospect of a cure, the man offered to participate in the study of an experimental system called BrainGate2 that allows paralyzed people to control devices with thought.
The system consists of the surgical implantation of electrodes inside the skull, in the region above the cerebral cortex that controls the movement. As soon as the implant was completed, scientists asked the volunteer to imagine themselves writing letters by hand, while a computer monitored the electrical activity of their brain.
How does the brain implant work?
As research co-author Krishna Shenoy explained to broadcaster NPR: “We can determine whether the letter you wrote is A, B or C and then put it on the screen, and you will be able to spell out words and phrases and so on, one letter at a time ”. Professor Shenoy is a neuroscientist and neuroengineer at Stanford University.
In previous experiments, participants used thoughts to “point and click” letter by letter, but the new system used is based on thoughts familiar to the sender, which allows the volunteer to use it almost instantly.
According to the director of the BRAIN Initiative, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the USA, John Ngai, when this idea of decoding brain activity was presented to research centers for funding, he thought it was “half science fiction”. Five years later, the perception is that this is a huge advance in science, he says.