Spelling With the MindCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 29, 2012 02:43PM
What may be one of the most terrifying possibilities for someone it being locked within their own body, with no ability to communicate. As reported by Cell Press, those with that fear and who actually suffer from an inability to communicate may find some relief soon. Researchers have successfully used an fMRI to return to people the ability to spell just by thinking of the letter.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) monitors the blood flow within a person's brain. This allows it to track brain activity because activated areas of the brain require additional blood to function. This technology has been used for communication before, but never to allow one to spell with the entire alphabet. To achieve this, the patients were instructed to perform certain mental tasks for each of the 27 characters (26 letters and a space). The brain patterns involved with the tasks are distinct enough for a computer to decode them into the correct characters, in real-time.
After the brain patterns were learned, the participants were given two open questions to answer. Each one of them was able to answer both questions within a single one-hour session. It may not be very fast, but this is an amazing accomplishment and only destined to improve. Eventually the researchers would like to see this technology evolve into something more affordable and portable than current fMRI machines.