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Posted by: thepinetree on 01/30/2019 07:35 PM Updated by: thepinetree on 01/30/2019 07:35 PM
Expires: 01/01/2024 12:00 AM
:

Columbia Engineers Translate Brain Signals Directly into Speech

New York, NY...In a scientific first, Columbia neuroengineers have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech. By monitoring someone’s brain activity, the technology can reconstruct the words a person hears with unprecedented clarity. This breakthrough, which harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain. It also lays the groundwork for helping people who cannot speak, such as those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or recovering from stroke, regain their ability to communicate with the outside world.





These findings were published in Scientific Reports.

“Our voices help connect us to our friends, family and the world around us, which is why losing the power of one’s voice due to injury or disease is so devastating,” said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, the paper’s senior author and a principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. “With today’s study, we have a potential way to restore that power. We’ve shown that, with the right technology, these people’s thoughts could be decoded and understood by any listener.”


This would be a game changer. It would give anyone who has lost their ability to speak, whether through injury or disease, the renewed chance to connect to the world around them.

Decades of research has shown that when people speak — or even imagine speaking — telltale patterns of activity appear in their brain. Distinct (but recognizable) pattern of signals also emerge when we listen to someone speak, or imagine listening. Experts, trying to record and decode these patterns, see a future in which thoughts need not remain hidden inside the brain — but instead could be translated into verbal speech at will.

But accomplishing this feat has proven challenging. Early efforts to decode brain signals by Dr. Mesgarani and others focused on simple computer models that analyzed spectrograms, which are visual representations of sound frequencies.

But because this approach has failed to produce anything resembling intelligible speech, Dr. Mesgarani and his team, including the paper's first author Hassan Akbari, turned instead to a vocoder, a computer algorithm that can synthesize speech after being trained on recordings of people talking.

“This is the same technology used by Amazon Echo and Apple Siri to give verbal responses to our questions,” said Dr. Mesgarani, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering.

To teach the vocoder to interpret to brain activity, Dr. Mesgarani teamed up with Ashesh Dinesh Mehta, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at Northwell Health Physician Partners Neuroscience Institute and co-author of today’s paper. Dr. Mehta treats epilepsy patients, some of whom must undergo regular surgeries.

“Working with Dr. Mehta, we asked epilepsy patients already undergoing brain surgery to listen to sentences spoken by different people, while we measured patterns of brain activity,” said Dr. Mesgarani. “These neural patterns trained the vocoder.”

Next, the researchers asked those same patients to listen to speakers reciting digits between 0 to 9, while recording brain signals that could then be run through the vocoder. The sound produced by the vocoder in response to those signals was analyzed and cleaned up by neural networks, a type of artificial intelligence that mimics the structure of neurons in the biological brain.


The end result was a robotic-sounding voice reciting a sequence of numbers. To test the accuracy of the recording, Dr. Mesgarani and his team tasked individuals to listen to the recording and report what they heard.

“We found that people could understand and repeat the sounds about 75% of the time, which is well above and beyond any previous attempts,” said Dr. Mesgarani. The improvement in intelligibility was especially evident when comparing the new recordings to the earlier, spectrogram-based attempts. “The sensitive vocoder and powerful neural networks represented the sounds the patients had originally listened to with surprising accuracy.”

Dr. Mesgarani and his team plan to test more complicated words and sentences next, and they want to run the same tests on brain signals emitted when a person speaks or imagines speaking. Ultimately, they hope their system could be part of an implant, similar to those worn by some epilepsy patients, that translates the wearer’s thoughts directly into words.

“In this scenario, if the wearer thinks ‘I need a glass of water,’ our system could take the brain signals generated by that thought, and turn them into synthesized, verbal speech,” said Dr. Mesgarani. “This would be a game changer. It would give anyone who has lost their ability to speak, whether through injury or disease, the renewed chance to connect to the world around them.”

###

This paper is titled “Towards reconstructing intelligible speech from the human auditory cortex.” Additional contributors include Bahar Khalighinejad and Jose L. Herrero.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (DC014279), the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Pew Biomedical Scholars Program.

The authors report no financial or other conflicts of interest.


Comments - Make a comment
The comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for its content. We value free speech but remember this is a public forum and we hope that people would use common sense and decency. If you see an offensive comment please email us at news@thepinetree.net
Brave New World
Posted on: 2019-01-30 19:40:42   By: Anonymous
 
The Thought Police have arrived.

[Reply ]

    Re: Brave New World
    Posted on: 2019-01-31 07:29:35   By: Anonymous
     
    Democrats/"progressives"/liberals/leftists/socialists will do ANYTHING to get political power! The hypocritical and corrupt Democrats/"progressives"/liberals/leftists/socialists are going further and further left, and becoming more radicalized, aggressive, and hateful. They are for open-borders, sanctuary cities/states, big government, more regulations, identity politics, politically correctness, "free stuff" (health care, college education, guaranteed income, other entitlements), redistribution of wealth, a weak military, social engineering, are anti-gun ownership, for rewriting-history, censor what they don’t like, and are turning socialist and more violent. And, they’re guilty of voter fraud! We MUST take the House back in ’20, gain more control of the Senate, and reelect President Trump in ’20!!! VOTE STRAIGHT REPUBLICAN TICKET in ’20! VOTE, DAMN IT!

    [Reply ]

      Re: Brave New World
      Posted on: 2019-01-31 07:58:04   By: Anonymous
       
      Imagine using this to read a politicians mind? Or all the democrats planning to get Trump and Pence out of office? You know they are planning this. I do believe the democrats in house would do any and everything to accomplish this.
      I am a democrat, I have been one for well over 4decades now and I believe they have become the most vindictive and most corrupt party in America.
      It breaks my heart that America's political system has turned so corrupt.

      [Reply ]

No Subject
Posted on: 2019-01-30 19:45:23   By: Anonymous
 
I think he's gay.

[Reply ]

    Re:
    Posted on: 2019-01-30 20:42:27   By: Anonymous
     
    I think that is so cool that they can do that so let's give these people a chance and see if it works. I wish this would have been discovered a few years ago when my mom was still alive and had her stroke.

    [Reply ]

      Re:
      Posted on: 2019-01-30 21:24:45   By: Anonymous
       
      No you don't.

      [Reply ]

Fabulous!
Posted on: 2019-01-30 21:26:38   By: Anonymous
 
Wow, this would be more than fabulous - hopefully it won't take decades to get it available.

[Reply ]

    Re: Fabulous!
    Posted on: 2019-01-31 07:39:28   By: Anonymous
     
    Dennis Mills needs this./


    [Reply ]

      Republican Derangement Syndrome
      Posted on: 2019-01-31 08:31:59   By: Anonymous
       
      The comments above are evidence of Republican Derangement Syndrome.
      To champion the Republican party traitors , is to be a traitor your self.
      The Delusions of tRump, and lock step fealty of the Republican party to this proven traitor signals a battle America has not seen before.

      The question is why do some prefer an Autocracy over Democracy?
      The Republicans clearly prefer Autocracy by the oligarch Billionaires over a Democracy of, by,for the people.

      The choice is clear- Democracy, or Plutocracy.

      One benefits all citizens, the other as we are living now only benefits the .01% , who currently own our government thru voter purges, and anti voting schemes to disenfranchise chosen groups who wish to vote, but are denied.

      The facts of inequality stagnant wages, loss of living standards, health, education indicates the present system is broken.

      Voting Republican continues, strengthens the Plutocracy.
      Voting Democratic will return America to it's Constitutional creed-
      Of,By,For The People

      [Reply ]

        Re: Republican Derangement Syndrome
        Posted on: 2019-01-31 14:01:09   By: Anonymous
         
        Your tin foil hat is slipping

        [Reply ]


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