“Neuroprosthesis” Restores Words to Man with Paralysis; Technology Could Lead to More Natural Communication for People Who Have Suffered Speech Loss

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have have successfully developed a “speech neuroprosthesis” that has enabled a man with severe paralysis to communicate in sentences, translating signals from his brain to the vocal tract directly into words that appear as text on a screen. The achievement, which was developed in collaboration with the first participant of a clinical research trial, builds on more than a decade of effort by UCSF neurosurgeon Edward Chang, MD, to develop a technology that allows people with paralysis to communicate even if they are unable to speak on their own. The study was published in the July 15. 2021 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The article is titled “Neuroprosthesis for Decoding Speech in a Paralyzed Person with Anarthria.” “To our knowledge, this is the first successful demonstration of direct decoding of full words from the brain activity of someone who is paralyzed and cannot speak,” said Dr. Chang, the Joan and Sanford Weill Chair of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, Jeanne Robertson Distinguished Professor, and senior author on the study. “It shows strong promise to restore communication by tapping into the brain's natural speech machinery.”

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