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IEEE Pulse. 2012 Jan;3(1):43-6. doi: 10.1109/MPUL.2011.2175637.

Silent communication: toward using brain signals.

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Brain–Computer Interface R&D Program, Wadsworth Center, Albany, New York, USA.


From the 1980s movie Firefox to the more recent Avatar, popular science fiction has speculated about the possibility of a persons thoughts being read directly from his or her brain. Such braincomputer interfaces (BCIs) might allow people who are paralyzed to communicate with and control their environment, and there might also be applications in military situations wherever silent user-to-user communication is desirable. Previous studies have shown that BCI systems can use brain signals related to movements and movement imagery or attention-based character selection. Although these systems have successfully demonstrated the possibility to control devices using brain function, directly inferring which word a person intends to communicate has been elusive. A BCI using imagined speech might provide such a practical, intuitive device. Toward this goal, our studies to date addressed two scientific questions: (1) Can brain signals accurately characterize different aspects of speech? (2) Is it possible to predict spoken or imagined words or their components using brain signals?

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