By harnessing the power of imagination, a research team has nearly doubled the writing speed at which immobilized patients can communicate.
People paralyzed after a heart attack or a neurological problem have serious difficulties in communicating even a single sentence to their relatives and the surrounding world.
Electrodes implanted in the part of the brain involved in the movements have allowed some patients to move a cursor to select letters on the screen with their mind.
Not easy, as you will understand, to the point that the maximum speed reached so far by the writing of paralyzed people was about 39 characters per minute. It is one third of the speed needed to write sentences by hand.
In a series of new tests conducted by Frank Willet, a Stanford University researcher, a volunteer paralyzed from the neck down was asked to imagine moving his arm to write each of the letters of the alphabet.
His brain activity helped "train" a neural network to interpret these commands. A computer used the signals to trace the trajectories of the "imaginary pen", and translated them into the corresponding letters.
An AI that writes by hand what paralyzed people imagine to write.
The artificial intelligence thus trained began to recognize the sentences imagined by the volunteer patient with 95% accuracy. At the speed of around 66 characters per minute! A magnificent result, which has rightly been used as case study at the annual meeting of the American Society of Neuroscience.
Almost there now
The definition and quality of the brain-computer connection they are ever higher, and will grow again.
The increased training of artificial intelligence and the development of more advanced technologies will soon allow science to understand which areas of the brain plan and manage precision movements best.