A study just published in Plos Biology [PDF] [MP3] (three cheers for open access) has shown for the first time that human speech can been reconstructed from brain waves. Participants’ brain signals were recorded using electrodes placed directly on the exterior brain tissue (ECoG). Participants were then read words which were reconstructed in to audible sounds.
Admittedly the sounds are rather gurgly, however the words were reconstructed accurately enough to be identifiable and this is only the first stage of the research.
This is not the first time that the senses have been reconstructed artificially from within the mind, amazingly only last year the same Berkeley research group successfully reconstructed the mind’s eye in to a video output from a brain scan!
I’m not going to hazard a guess at the possible Orwellian implications of this research. The potential benefits far outweigh any other considerations, to me at least, but they are certainly something worth pondering. It looks like the future is arriving at our doorstep far quicker than we ever dreamt.
Pasley, B. David, S. Mesgarani, N. Flinker, A. Shamma, S. Crone, N. Knight, R. Chang, E. (2012). Reconstructing Speech from Human Auditory Cortex PLoS Biology : http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001251
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