Telepathy on the way!
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A first step has been taken towards hearing imagined speech using a form of electronic telepathy, it has been claimed.
Scientists believe in future it may be possible to "decode" the thoughts of brain-damaged patients who cannot speak.
In a study described by one British expert as "remarkable", US researchers were able to reconstruct heard words from brain wave patterns.
A computer program was used to predict what spoken words volunteers had listened to by analysing their brain activity.
Previous research has shown that imagined words activate similar brain areas as words that are actually uttered.
The hope is that imagined words can be uncovered by "reading" the brain waves they produce.
"This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig's disease and can't speak," said Professor Robert Knight, one of the researchers from the University of California at Berkeley.
"If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands of people could benefit."
However, the study involved the use of electrodes inserted through the skull on to the brains of epileptic patients.
A system sophisticated enough to achieve the same result non-invasively remains a long way off.
Prof Knight acknowledged that the research was at an early stage and controlling movement with brain activity was "relatively simple" compared with reconstructing language. But he added: "This experiment takes that earlier work to a whole new level."
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