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Friday, 25 October 2019

An AI allows quadriplegics to write with their thoughts, as if they were writing by hand

The patient traced the intended trajectory with his "imaginary pen" to form letters, and the system took care of the rest. | Frank Willet

By allowing quadriplegics to use their imagination to write, researchers have almost doubled the speed at which they can communicate with the outside world.

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In general, people who become quadriplegic after a stroke or a neurological disease, have great difficulty communicating, even when it comes to issuing a single sentence.

In an effort to help them communicate faster, researchers have recently developed a device for writing (type of handwriting) with thought.

In previous studies, electrodes implanted in a specific area of ​​the brain involved in motion control, had already allowed some paralyzed patients to move a cursor on a screen to select letters with their thoughts. Volunteers were able to type up to 39 characters per minute, but it was about three times slower than natural handwriting.


A model based on handwriting

As part of this new study, to write, a tetraplegic volunteer imagined rather move the arm to form each letter of the alphabet. The brain activity provoked by this exercise made it possible to form a computer model called the neural network, to better interpret the "writing commands" afterwards. The patient imagined tracing the intended trajectory with the tip of his imaginary pen to form letters, and the intelligent system took care of the rest (see title image).

Finally, the artificial intelligence (neural network) developed over time was able to interpret the sentences written by the volunteers with an accuracy of about 95%, at a speed of about 66 characters per minute. reported the research team this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Now, researchers expect writing speed to increase with practice. By refining their technology, the system will also be able to use neural recordings to better understand how the brain plans and orchestrates fine motor movements.

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