UC Berkeley researchers wanted to see how the brain handles speech. The ultimate goal? An implant that gives, say, people who’ve lost the ability to speak a way to verbally communicate with the rest of us, or a “hearing aid” that skips the whole “crank the decibels” idea in favor of directly sending the information to your brain. Also mind-reading, because mind reading is awesome. No, seriously, long-term, reading your mind is one of the applications.
So, they sought out people getting their skulls cracked open for brain surgery anyway, and connected electrode nets directly to their posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG), a major speech center in the brain. Then they recorded the brain activity as patients listened to different words for ten minutes or so.
Then they applied some algorithms and…nailed what word the person was listening to 90% of the time.
This has a long way to go: we’re not sure how much the pSTG is involved in imagining speech. But this is still a major breakthrough. And also creepy! Just give this a listen:
image via TZA on Flickr