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Brain Implants Can Detect What Patients Hear

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the grandma,-what-big-electrodes-you-have dept.

Science 75

kkleiner writes "A group of 15 patients suffering from either epileptic seizures or brain tumors volunteered to allow scientists to insert electrodes into their brains. After neurosurgeons cut a hole in their skulls, the research team placed 256 electrodes over the part of the brain that processes auditory signals called the temporal lobe. The scientists then played words, one at a time, to the patients while recording brain activity in the temporal lobe. A computer was able to reconstruct the original word 80 to 90 percent of the time."

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75 comments

Look out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39052739)

Here come the thought police!!!

Re:Look out! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053061)

More likely, this will be part of the new and improved Siri. There will be a bunch of captured Android developers being held as slaves at Apple, with their skulls cut open, performing voice recognition for the more difficult queries.

Within a decade, we'll learn how to grow human brains in a test-tube, and then equip one to each phone. I love the future!

zOMG! I have Siri in my brain?!!! (1)

Motard (1553251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053833)

Maybe my idea of using VR goggles and a dataglove to create a virtual a rolodex wasn't so crazy after all.

Re:Look out! (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39061111)

After neurosurgeons cut a hole in their skulls....A computer was able to reconstruct the original word 80 to 90 percent of the time.

And that word was, I'm guessing...."OWWWW STOP DRILLING IN MY HEAD!!!!!"

Brave New World (3)

Foxhoundz (2015516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052761)

We need more articles like this. It's an encouraging progress in neuroscience.

I see big potential here (4, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052805)

My dreams of a womanspeak translator implant are on the horizon. Now, if they can just develop the technology to translate "Leave me the fuck alone until the game is over." into a more palatable sentence...

Re:I see big potential here (0)

powerspike (729889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053237)

Hunny, if you wish to talk to me about X during the game, I'll be more then happy to talk to you Y when is on. There you go...

Re:I see big potential here (2, Funny)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 2 years ago | (#39054331)

Hunny, if you wish to talk to me about X during the game, I'll be more then happy to talk to you Y when is on.

There you go...

You obviously haven't studied enough Chaos Theory to think womanspeak breaks down into anything logical.

Re:I see big potential here (1)

Saintwolf (1224524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39058121)

Hunny, if you wish to talk to me about X during the game, I'll be more then happy to talk to you Y when is on.

There you go...

You obviously haven't studied enough Chaos Theory to think womanspeak breaks down into anything logical.

He sounds fairly illogical to me, but that could just be the bad syntax on his part.

Re:I see big potential here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053261)

Oh go shag a honeydew melon

Re:I see big potential here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053577)

"Leave me the fuck alone until the game is over."

That's what I tell my girlfriend during our weekly Pathfinder game!

Then she kills my character, 'cause she's the GM. :-(

Re:I see big potential here (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055959)

dude, you're meant to be doing man things, like reaching high objects, changing tyres, and opening stuck jar lids.

Tech Support (4, Insightful)

swsuehr (612400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052823)

Earlier in my career when I had to do level 1 tech support I might have liked opportunity to cut holes in skulls to make sure people heard what was being said. However, *hearing* what's being said and actually processing that into meaningful and actionable instructions are two different things.

Re:Tech Support (0)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052913)

mod parent up. When you speak sense to certain folks, they hear crazy talk. And, conversely, crazy talk (e.g., anything said by pRick Santorum) makes sense to them.

Re:Tech Support (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053069)

Sometimes this thought scares me. It makes me wonder if there actually is an alternate reality where what Rick Santorum makes sense, and we're just not privy to it. Much as they are not privy to our world, where Rick is full of Santorum.

Re:Tech Support (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053531)

Sometimes this thought scares me. It makes me wonder if there actually is an alternate reality where what Rick Santorum makes sense, and we're just not privy to it. Much as they are not privy to our world, where Rick is full of Santorum.

Your post: a perfect example of sense being spoken and crazy being heard.

(duck. Oy!!... just kidding, man, just kidding!)

Re:Tech Support (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39061213)

Indeed. Such as listening to their brains fry when you ask them this:

So if you believe that the government shouldn't be involved in religion at all...you obviously believe that polygamy should be legal right Mr. Romney?

Pretty neat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39052861)

It's pretty neat they can do this when they are doing the equivalent of a voltmeter to figure out how a processor works.

Re:Pretty neat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053115)

It's a bit more sophisticated than that -- I'd say the proper analogy is like using a 20MHz 'scope to analyze a GHz-range processor.

Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (4, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052949)

but the first thing I thought of when I read that scientists can now detect what is being heard is: "I wonder before the copyright police make this implant technology mandatory in order to catch unlicensed listening?"

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (3, Funny)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053305)

Me to first thing I thought is there's the accuracy problem. They need 512....

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053479)

I thought the same thing, "Oh, must be an 8-bit decoder."

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055983)

i think the 256 might actually be analogous to spectral bins - we hear in FFT land, IIRC.

with 256 bins they could run something like shazam, then charge for some poor bugger who's had "octopuses garden" stuck in their head for a week.

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056227)

poor bugger who's had "octopuses garden" stuck in their head for a week

You bastard

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053751)

What does your brain look [google.com] like when you click "hotmail"? How about "teen"? How about "cheeseburger"? Have you seen your brain image when clicking "I ACCEPT"?

The chairs in your doctor's offices, interview offices, lending offices, etc. do not move very often, do they?

Do you suppose that, in the modern age of nanotech, there's a combination of a brain scan with a speed reading radar gun?

Got your thought again--morons. It's an MRI cannon, works like a hand-held highway radar gun, and about one in fifty people have the dollars and the social connections to get their hands on one. Have you read ten minutes of any article to profile your brain word for word, have you recite a ten minute speech into a recorder, maybe have you sit in an interview session, how about your performance review for stress testing the brain scan, or just watch you in particular when you surf porn at night and profile your neural networks for every mouse click.

Morons. Do you suppose it's good enough to read passwords as you type them? Would you like to bet real money on that? I could use a few dollars and a nice place to sleep and shower for a few days.

Morons. We don't need no stinking electrodes. We have been playing around with oscilloscopes wired to directional microphone dishes since the thirties.

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055393)

Would you like to bet real money on that?

Yes. Yes I would. I've got AU$50 in whatever form is convenient for you for something resembling a citation for the claim of a "MRI cannon" in the form of a "hand-held highway radar gun" that's "good enough to read passwords [from your mind] as you type them".

I could use a few dollars and a nice place to sleep and shower for a few days.

I thought you were past all that? That might explain the backsliding into things like gambling, then.

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053861)

Or even worse, unlicensed reminiscing.

Re:Maybe I've been reading Slashdot too long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056281)

Incriminating "unlicensed listening" -- isn't it what ACTA is about?

The RIAA's next project (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052971)

Soon everyone will be forced to have such an implant, so that people can be properly billed for every music they hear.

Wow... imagine that! (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39052985)

That the electrical signals received by the brain from the ear would actually directly correspond to the actual soundwaves received by the ear...

I'm sorry... but in what way is this any more revolutionary in discovery than the telephone?

Re:Wow... imagine that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053131)

Indeed. It would make a better story if they could reconstruct words the patient was

thinking of

(without hearing them)

Re:Wow... imagine that! (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053415)

Yes. *THAT* would be revolutionary.

Also, pretty scary, if you think about the possible ways such technology could be abused.

Re:Wow... imagine that! (4, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053253)

That the electrical signals received by the brain from the ear would actually directly correspond to the actual soundwaves received by the ear...

I'm sorry... but in what way is this any more revolutionary in discovery than the telephone?

It's brain research. Plain and simple.

They already have devices that can translate the sound waves received by the ear into electrical impulses that are sent directly to the auditory nerves to be interpreted by the brain. They're called cochlear implants.

This, on the other hand, is reading how the other end of the line interprets the impulses -- what happens within the brain when the electrical impulses are received. We still don't know all that much about how the brain really works. But when you can read changes in the brain with sufficient fidelity to be able to deduce what word the brain is thinking about, you can be pretty sure your hunch about how the brain works is correct.

Misleading summary. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053037)

From the PLoS paper: "To assess decoding accuracy, the reconstructed spectrogram is compared to the spectrogram of the original acoustic waveform". The number of words used in the experiment was 47 and the reconstructed spectrogram was compared to the 47 spectrograms of acoustic waveforms used in the experiment. That could be done with 90% accuracy. If the input waveform would have been unknown, the reconstruction would not aid at all in knowing what word the patient listened to.

Re:Misleading summary. (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about 2 years ago | (#39084407)

If the input waveform would have been unknown, the reconstruction would not aid at all in knowing what word the patient listened to.

Why do you say "not aid at all"? Audio can be reconstructed from spectrograms, and computer matching algorithms can match spectrograms to words (that's basically how they usually do speech recognition). So while accuracy might not have been quite 90% on an open set of unknown words, the procedure would still aid at least a little.

Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphone? (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053039)

Because a microphone that is on a person's body is going to pick up everything that person hears as well.

And for that matter, it will probably be loads more reliable than trying to decode electrical signals that we are only just beginning to comprehend.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (5, Insightful)

alphamax (1176593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053161)

Because a microphone that is on a person's body is going to pick up everything that person hears as well.

And for that matter, it will probably be loads more reliable than trying to decode electrical signals that we are only just beginning to comprehend.

Experiments such as this one are the reason we are beginning to comprehend the electrical signals in the brain. The goal of the experiment isn't to understand WHAT the patients are hearing, but HOW the patients are hearing.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053381)

Hey, I'm not dissing finding out more about how the brain works.... but being able to detect what a person hears is really no more complicated than putting a microphone near that person.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053547)

Being able to reconstruct the sound from analyzing electrical signals in the brain, however?

This could be groundbreaking research. Especially for hearing implants.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053587)

Well, if they are hearing the sound at the time, then no... I'm afraid I don't think that's a big a deal. The electrical signals transmitted from the eardrum to the brain would naturally have a pretty tight correspondence with the sound waves received, and I would naturally expect that electrical activity in the brain corresponding to regions associated with hearing would be similarly correspondent. The breakthrough will happen when they can construct the sound directly from what they are thinking, and not simply actually hearing with their ears.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 2 years ago | (#39054939)

A pity the authors neglected to site your previous neurological research. Clearly you've got this all figured out.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about 2 years ago | (#39084391)

The electrical signals transmitted from the eardrum to the brain would naturally have a pretty tight correspondence with the sound waves received

Near the ear (i.e., auditory nerve), that would be mostly correct. For low frequencies (<2 kHz), the summed impulses on the auditory nerve look very much like the acoustic signal. For high frequencies, they look only like the overall envelope of the acoustic signal, but that's still pretty good and good enough to figure out most speech.

and I would naturally expect that electrical activity in the brain corresponding to regions associated with hearing would be similarly correspondent.

Mostly incorrect. Neurons in cortex fire very slowly (on the order of Hz), often eve nonce per "signal" (loosely defined, discrete chunk of audio). The pathway goes auditory nerve > cochlear nucleus > superior olive > lateral lemniscus > inferior colliculus > medial geniculate > auditory cortex. Very cool, complex computations are being performed at every stage that transform a time waveform received at the eardrum to a perception of sound and the world around you. To understand what the signals at the cortex mean is a huge insight toward reverse-engineering the brain, so don't knock it before you understand it.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

alphamax (1176593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053557)

Oh, I follow you now..."Brain implants can detect what patients hear"...so do microphones, clever :)

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053583)

Can't see the forest for the trees.

Summary seems to be hung up on the reconstructed words aspect, so not entirely your fault. Still, go back and reread what alphamax posted.

"The goal of the experiment isn't to understand WHAT the patients are hearing, but HOW the patients are hearing."

The experimenters already knew what the people were hearing, they were playing back prerecorded words. More formally, the question is "How does the human auditory system extract perceptually relevant acoustic features of speech?"

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39062631)

Hey, I'm not dissing finding out more about how the brain works....

Really? After reading your other two posts it sounds an awful lot like you are.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053459)

Ugh, no. For one thing, your brain is similarly activated when you THINK about words as when you hear them, so this kind of work demonstrates the possibility of a brain/computer interface.

It should also be possible to prompt you (or force you) to think about the word (either its meaning, or to hallucinate the sound, depending on where you link in) by injecting a current, enabling a more direct link to an external memory, such as the Internet.

The HUGE catch in all this is it requires an inter-cranial electrode array, which is currently only justified when there is some dire medical need for it, such as people constantly plagued by severe seizures. What we really need is a less invasive way to get those into there.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053475)

Sorry, "intra-cranial," i.e. inside your skull. Otherwise the sensing is much more limited (EEG).

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053493)

For one thing, your brain is similarly activated when you THINK about words as when you hear them

While this has been postulated before, to the best of my knowledge, this premise has yet to be conclusively proven.

Of course, being able to determine what words people are thinking of is a *HUGE* deal... and one that has almost frightening consequences.

Re:Wouldn't it just be easier to plant a microphon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053615)

What if you're trying to figure out if a hearing problem is in the cochlea or in the wetware?

Wasn't this posted a week or two ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053087)

Maybe I didn't read it here, but I'm pretty sure I did.

Deja Vu All Over Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053433)

I could have sworn that I saw this story before on /.

DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (1, Funny)

Roark Meets Dent (650119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39053863)

These stories about how the technology is still in the experimental stages are all bogus and intentional disinformation. Many thousands of people already have their brains implanted with this tech 100% NON-CONSENSUALLY. It is called synthetic telepathy. It transmits not only what you hear but what you see, think and feel back to the originator. Just google "targeted individuals or "synthetic telepathy" and you will see what I mean.

A lot of new age people are duped into thinking they have developed telepathic powers due to being "spiritually advanced" or "in tune with the earth" or other such BS. In reality they are MKULTRA mind control victims of the present day.

Military black operations have been carried out for years to put the tech into people's heads. Remember all those "alien abduction" stories in the media for the past 10-20 years? Those people really were being abducted and implanted, but not by aliens.

For more information visit http://www.karlaturner.org/ [karlaturner.org]

Re:DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (0)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39054069)

It's called "schizophrenia", and the cure is suicide.

The idea that there is reason to implant some average shmuck implies the shmuck has value, so schizo-shmucks embrace the concept.

It doesn't require implants to manipulate dumbfucks. Religion and Advertising work just fine.

Re:DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055245)

Every single time, without fail, that a legitimate person tries to talk about the deployment of this technology, some JACKASS shows up within minutes throwing around the word "schizophrenia" to try and discredit the reporter.

According to the University of Manchester School of Psychology, SCHIZOPHRENIA MAY NOT EVEN EXIST.
http://www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/schizophrenia

Do some research and you will find that false psychiatric have been in use by governments as a pretext to incarcerate political dissidents. The Soviet Union was notorious for this, but now it is happening in the USA and most other western countries as well.

Re:DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39058633)

Delectable special insight gives the possessor enhanced comfort from their preferred explanation for a scary world.

See also: religion.

Re:DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#39054739)

You realize, of course, that's not true, right? That technology does not exist, nor will it for decades. Are you mocking those poor unfortunates that believe it, or are you one yourself?

Re:DISINFORMATION. Already in widespread use. (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055161)

I can vouch that this is true. As a once high ranking "general" in the NWO, I oversaw the deployment of such devices to many individuals. Generally we searched out ill informed, paranoid crazies for this sort of work - After all, when you are intent in developing a world in your image, for your own means, there is no better "cluster" of individuals to keep your third eye on.

Once we abducted these individuals we would take them to our underground labs - the ones provided to us and shared with the "greens". Here we would implant 3 bits of tech, one just behind the left ear (receiver), one just behind the right (transmitter) and an anal probe (signal boosting antenna). Much of this tech was developed in collaboration with the greens and Tesla who I believe is still chief science officer for the NWO.

My being excluded from the NWO is a story for another time, but the only reason I am alive to tell you this tale now is that I have been using this technology myself to track my would-be assassins.

Of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39053885)

played words, one at a time, to the patients while recording brain activity in the temporal lobe

If they'd played all the words at the same time instead of one at a time, the electrodes would have exploded from being over driven by an over stimulated brain.

beat me to it. . (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39054761)

I was contemplating following this line of research, but it seems that these guys got there before me. Must have read my mind!

Tin Foil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056775)

Could these scientists tin foil my skull?

Why is this considered an advancement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39058311)

That's not that amazing really...

This level of accuracy (or higher) is about what speech software (Dragon or Siri) is achieving by just listening to the sound waves themselves. So if anything, the ear and cochlear filter and clean the signal (removing background noise) so it should be easier to use this signal to interpret the words.

Tinnitus treatments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39058711)

Hopefully research work like this will lead to cures for conditions like Tinnitus, the ringing sound that people hear. It's already apparent that the ringing noises don't always originate in the ear as severing the auditory nerve to the brain doesn't always get rid of the ringing sound. It seems the brain is involved in generating the noisy signal.

If work like this indicates where the false sound is coming from, perhaps another, active, implant could eliminate it.

Simstim decks (1)

VAXcat (674775) | more than 2 years ago | (#39060959)

Cowboys didn't get into simstim, he thought, because it was basically a meat toy. He knew that ... the cyberspace matrix was actually a drastic simplification of the human sensorium, at least in terms of presentation, but simstim itself struck him as a gratuitous multiplication of flesh input.

1984 with WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39064341)

Citizen 392417, your aural implant has detected that you were just made a bribery offer. Do not attempt to deny it, we have the transcript right here...

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