Jedi Talk

Luke, use the force… to talk?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Jedi Warriors in Star Wars can communicate telepathically. Could we give that ability to those who’ve lost speech to neurodegenerative diseases? Currently, there are ways of translating brain signals into words, but they’re slow. What to do?

Enter Suseendrakumar Duraivel and team from Duke University. They developed a brain implant the size of a postage stamp. It has over two hundred and fifty MICROSCOPIC sensors!

During surgery, sensors were placed on the speech and motor brain surfaces of four patients. Then, subjects repeated a set of nonsense words aloud while the sensors recorded brain signals. Later, the signals were processed and fed into a machine-learning algorithm.

Results? Signal decoding improved by thirty-five percent compared to previous methods. Impressive for ONLY ninety seconds of blabber from each patient!

There’s still a way to go, but it’s a major step towards regaining speech.

Buckle up, Earthlings! Jedi talk is around the cosmic corner!

Reference: Duraivel, S., Rahimpour, S., Chiang, C. H., et al. (2023). High-resolution neural recordings improve the accuracy of speech decoding. Nature Communications, 14, 6938.