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This man regained the use of his voice thanks to an implant working with AI

© Image generated by DALL-E AI for Presse-Citron

For the first time, a bilingual man, unable to articulate words, was able to communicate in his two languages ​​thanks to a brain implant coupled with an artificial intelligence system. Proof that the Neuralink company is not the only entity capable of operating brain implants. This technological feat brings hope for people suffering from mutism.

The implant, once implanted in the patient's brain, captures the electrical signals associated with their brain activity when they try to speak. These signals are then decoded by the AI, which translates them into understandable words and sentences.

Pancho's story: a remarkable journey

Pancho is the name of the man at the heart of this extraordinary technological advance. At the age of 20, a stroke turned his life upside down, leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak clearly. Only able to emit grunts and moans, Pancho had completely lost the ability to communicate with the world around him.

In his thirties, a new glimmer of hope appeared to him. Pancho crossed paths with Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, who was passionate about the potential of brain-computer interfaces (like Neuralink's N1 chip). Together, they decided to explore the lingering effects of the stroke on Pancho's brain. It was in 2021 that a study appeared in The New England Journal of Medicinemarked a real turning point in his life. During this research, Dr. Chang's team implanted electrodes on his cerebral cortex, making it possible to record his neuronal activity with very high high precision.

These electrical signals, once incomprehensible, were decoded by an artificial intelligence system, transformed into words and sentences displayed on a screen. For the first time in years, Pancho was able to express his thoughts and feelings. His first sentence, “ My family is outside ”, was performed in English, a language he learned after his stroke.

But for Pancho, a Spanish speaker by birth, Spanish remained his mother tongue, cshe who evoked deep memories and indicated a more marked sense of belonging. As Chang explains: “The languages ​​a person speaks are actually very linked to their identity […] That's why our long-term goal has never been simply to replace words, but to give people back their ability to communicate ”.

The implant and the AI: a powerful synergy

To restore the total communication arrangements of Pancho, another scientific team looked into his case, led by Alexander Silva, Chang's doctoral student. Their objective: develop an artificial intelligence system capable of deciphering the bilingual language of Pancho, so that he can express himself as well in English as in Spanish.

To achieve this, the team developed an ingenious strategy. They began by training the AI ​​system on a set of nearly 200 words that Pancho was trying to say. Each spoken word generated a distinct neural pattern, recorded by electrodes implanted in his brain. The AI ​​system, with two separate modules (one for Spanish and one for English), then analyzed the sentences Pancho was trying to formulate. Each module selected the word that best matched the detected neural pattern, taking into account the language used by Pancho.

Then, the modules constructed complete sentences by evaluating the probability of each word that would follow. The final result, also displayed on a screen, was the sentence with the highest probability of being the one Pancho wanted to express. The results are quite astonishing since this hybrid approach allowed the modules to distinguish English from Spanish with a remarkable accuracy of 88%. Pancho's sentences, for their part, were deciphered with a success rate of 75%. Subsequently, Pancho was finally able to engage in natural, unscripted conversations with the research team, breaking the silence that had constrained him for so many years.

Pancho's story is above all proof of the immense potential of brain-computer interfaces. This unprecedented success is perhaps the first in a long series and will eventually serve as an example for other studies, thus giving hope to people suffering from physical disabilities. communication to regain their autonomy. A true victory for scientific and human innovation and (perhaps) the promise of a distant future where oral communication will never again be a barrier for individuals. Let's not forget that heart transplants were seen as an insurmountable obstacle in the 1960s; until 1967, when the first was successful. Today, this operation is relatively common and thousands take place each year in France. Maybe Pancho's implant will follow the same trajectory.

  • Pancho, a young man, lost the ability to speak at age 20 due to a stroke.
  • In 2021, he was given a brain implant to be able to transcribe what he wanted to say in English.
  • < li>Later, a team developed an AI system to fully restore his speech in the two languages ​​he had mastered: English and English. #8217;Spanish.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116