New Research To Restore Faculty Of Speech

By Ben Hamill - May 04 2019
Speech-Impaired People May Soon Have A New Voice

Patients who, for whatever reason, suffer from any form of impaired speech may soon receive the gift of getting back their ability to speak and vocalise their thoughts and feelings in natural way. The speech of millions all over the world are affected by medical events such as strokes, robbing them of their capacity to speak and express themselves in a natural manner.

Scientists at the University of California are in the process of developing technology that aims to convert actual brain signals to synthesized speech. The scientists are hoping to achieve this by implanting electrodes into the brains of volunteers in order to study the possibility of the generation speech via a synthesizer. The technology basically de-scrambles the signals produced by the cerebral speech centre in the human brain, where after the signals are rerouted to a computerised vocal system, i.e. the tongue, larynx, lips and human jaw.

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Speech Intelligent Despite Slurs

The initial reports indicate that the speech was for most part perfectly intelligible, despite slight slurs occurring here and there. Researchers now hope that the system will eventually be fine-tuned enough to offer real hope to those affected by speech-impairing conditions. The ultimate outcome will be the successful development of a clinically viable signal-to-speech conversion device.

The illnesses capable of severely and negatively affecting the faculty of speech include cerebral palsy, a stroke, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, brain injuries and diseases and even some types of cancer.

Shock, according to co-author and doctoral student Josh Chartier, was the group of researchers’ first response upon having heard the results. Chartier said that the most incredible element of the research was that the sounds that were being created thanks to the technology closely resembled actual human speech. Chartier also said that despite the fact that much more will have to be done in order to improve the technology to the extent that it generates 100% natural speech, the scientists spearheading the project are already immensely impressed by the initial results.

Nothing Lost In This Translation

According to leading neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Young, very few of us are actually aware of the processes and actions involved in our ability to speak. The human brain basically translates thoughts into actions that are then performed by the vocal tract. The technology that is currently being developed is aimed at gaining a better understanding of how the sounds translate to movements of the human mouth.

The scientists noted that the implementation of the virtual vocal tract appears to be the golden link, as the technology did not work quite as effectively in its absence.

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