Game Changer in Brain Research

A Possible Game Changer for People with Aphasia

A new scientific development may be a game changer for people with aphasia. The subhead on The New York Times article says it all: “A prosthetic voice decodes what the brain intends to say and generates (mostly) understandable speech, no muscle movement needed.”

In other words, you think it, the machine says it.

Usefulness

It’s a great leap forward for people experiencing paralysis after a stroke, accident, or neurodegenerative disease, but it’s also potentially a useful tool for people with aphasia who have difficulty turning their thoughts into spoken words. The machine “decodes the brain’s vocal intentions and translates them into mostly understandable speech.” It creates speech by understanding brain signals.

Status

This advancement isn’t ready for public use. It is still being tested on people who have access to speech before moving it to people who do not have the ability to speak. Initial findings were reported in the journal Nature last week, but we’re still a long ways away from the average person with aphasia using the tool as they work to regain speech.

It is currently moving into a new trial with people experiencing epilepsy. The New York Times reports:

Five such patients at U.C.S.F. agreed to test the virtual voice generator. Each had been implanted with one or two electrode arrays: stamp-size pads, containing hundreds of tiny electrodes, that were placed on the surface of the brain.

Those participants then read sentences, allowing the researchers to study the neurons and how they relate to jaw and tongue movements that occur during the speech. Researchers were then able to recreate those sentences with the machine. You can listen to a sample embedded in the article midway down the page and hear both the original reading and the recreated reading.

The machine can produce 150 words per minute, about the same speed as average human speech. The researchers foresee the possibility that “off-the-shelf virtual systems could be available one day.”

Future

Researchers now need to test whether they can reproduce speech in people who currently do not have the ability to speak. This presents a new issue, especially when it comes to people with aphasia following a stroke:

The team is planning to move to clinical trials to further test the system. The biggest clinical challenge may be finding suitable patients: strokes that disable a person’s speech often also damage or wipe out the areas of the brain that support speech articulation.

In other words, brain changes may necessitate workarounds in order to find new speech routes in the brain.

It’s an exciting development, and we’ll have more information in the future as we read about new studies.

Comments

33 Comments

  • Patsy Huntington
    April 30, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Can’t wait for this to develop! Since 2012 my husband had a big stroke, developed epilepsy. Today he has more & more difficulty communicating verbally. This would be a blessing…

  • David Billingsley
    April 30, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Go science! Thanks, NAA, for passing along the news of this research.

  • Shannon
    May 1, 2019 at 2:39 am

    This would be amazing tool for people who have mild-severe aphasia. Can’t wait to see what the future holds!
    If you are looking for, finding a suitable patient we would love to chat with you. My husband is 2 years post with severe aphasia, with some automatic speech.

  • Kay T. Rhew
    May 3, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    My mother had a stroke 3/18/19 & has aphasia now. Would love to learn more about participation in clinical trials. She is 88 and stoke caused no brain injuries. But Aphasia changes victim’s life, in addition to family and caregivers. Much interest in participating to help others in future who must deal with this sudden, life-changing issue.

  • B Bartos
    May 3, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    Husband had catastrophic CVA. A complete anomaly. Aphasic with hemiparesis. Tough as nails & nothing stops him! A good candidate!

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2019 at 8:20 am

    My Grandson had a stroke at age 19. He is now 25 and has Aphasia. He says only a few words like: Mom, NO, Si, Mikayla. He is young and would be a wonderful candidate for further research.

  • Florence Bradley
    May 15, 2019 at 8:23 am

    My Grandson had a stroke at age 19, playing football. He is now 25 and has Aphasia. He says a few words like: Mom, No, Si, Mikayla. He would be an excellent candidate for more research.

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2019 at 8:38 am

    I hope this is the answer to the prayers of all those with aphasia. My dear friend had a stroke in 2007 and has been unable to speak spontaneously sense. She is incredibly bright and uses Proloquo to Go app on her phone & iPad; He’s really good at giving us clues to help understand what is on her mind But of course not being able to say what you feel and think yourself is just tragic. She’s now a grandmother and to not be able to speak to her granddaughter is just so painful to her. We have all kinds of assistive speech devices but this technology would be a Godsend and a true miracle!

  • Win Bentham
    May 15, 2019 at 8:44 am

    12 years ago my daughter suffered a ruptured aneurism. However, she retained her bilingualism English/French despite being severely aphasic. We live in France and I have heard nothing about this here. Thank you, we’re looking forward to more news, its supportive.

  • Sharon K
    May 15, 2019 at 9:06 am

    I would love to know who is conducting these trials and how one. Might get info on applying to be part of yrisls

  • T Winder
    May 15, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Fantastic news. My wife was diagnosed last year with primary progressive aphasia(PPAJ There is no cure or clinical treatments available for this. To think that something like this could be available soon is very exciting news..I believe she would be an ideal candidate for this degenerative disease

  • Terri McIntyre
    May 15, 2019 at 9:29 am

    This is incredible news. My husband is 22 months post stroke 80% of the left side leaving him with mostly expressive aphasia, at this point some days a new word just pops out and occasionally we could get three or four words strung in a row but this is exciting news. Like everyone else who is reading this that has someone affected by Aphasia we’re all curious to see who could be in a clinical trial. Thank you science and thank you NAA!

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2019 at 9:38 am

    I WOULD LOVE TO VOLUNTEER FOR THIS GROUND BREAKING NEWS. I HAVE APHASIA FOR 9 YEARS NOW, THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING I AM INTERSTED WITH.
    I AM IN UK, DOCTOR CHAN LOOKS AFTER ME, CAMBRIDGE HOSPITAL .
    MY NAME IS JEFF GORDON.

  • Michael Morgenstern
    May 15, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Our 47 year old son had a hemorrhagic stroke almost 5 years ago lost his right side and has aphasia. Has cognition and a vocabulary of about half dozen words and short phrases he uses mostly as responses, he can repeat short sentences in speech therapy but cannot initiate them volitionally, instead the phrase “what day” is constantly repeated when he intends to say what is on his mind. Would he make a good candidate for trial? He’s is in the Palace Gardens ALF in Homestead, FL

  • Bernadette Bettard
    May 15, 2019 at 10:16 am

    But There is already a very expensive device available I thought. It’s 10000.00 I think. A nurse friend told me one of her patients had it and it talked for him.

  • Shari shafer
    May 15, 2019 at 10:26 am

    My friend has been diagnosed wth PPA and is having some speech problems. She is a retired doctor.

  • Shari Shafer
    May 15, 2019 at 10:29 am

    My friend as recently diagnosed with PPA and is experiencing mild speech problems. She’s a retired doctor. Very hopeful news.

  • Angela K Wilson
    May 15, 2019 at 10:34 am

    My mother and I are caregivers for her brother that is 78. He has been diagnosed with primary cognitive aphasia. Every day we play charades to understand what he is trying to say. This would be so good for him. Thanks for your work in this area.

  • Maria Round
    May 15, 2019 at 10:41 am

    If there is any opportunity to be part of the research my brother would be very keen to take part. Three years in and severe aphasia and presently taking part in research using music and singing in speech development

  • Barb Hauber
    May 15, 2019 at 11:07 am

    My husband would be a good candidate, he has brain degeneration, talks but can.t find words or the words come out wrong. He knows what he is trying to say but s often we don’t, and play a guessing game. Very stressful on all of us and he doesn’t want to socialize cause he can’t talk properly.

  • Sandra M Whitford
    May 15, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Like many above, my husband had a massive stroke in 2016 and a second one 4 months later. As a result he cannot swallow, talk, use his right side and while seemingly still understands everything you say as shown by nods and shakes of his head, showing aghast fear and love, and sorrow appropriately in response to discussions while also catching the punchline of jokes often before others leading me to believe he is indeed trapped in that body.

    This tool would be very beneficial for my husband and if they ever do a larger trial or call for volunteers I’d like to be notified and enter him into the candidate/subject list. This is exciting news. Too bad it will probably be too late for most currently in this state.

  • Marge Kovach
    May 15, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I had a stoke Oct 2015 and its completely changed my life. From being a chatterbox and not being able to talk I have some limited speech . I took 6 months of speech therapy and I work at it by doing crossword puzzles and Lumosity and Happy Newtron. What I want is something that motivates my speech and comes out of my mouth correctly. Its so frustrating, but people 99% of the time realize I have this problem and work with me, thank goodness, I was lucky, only my speech was affected. Thank you for doing further research.

  • Beth M Nicastro
    May 15, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Please contact me…my spouse has post stroke aphasia and apraxia.

  • George lawrence
    May 15, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Would this be workable with PPA?

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    My wife, Judith Townsend has a form of aphasia and would like to be part of a trial in Houston, TX

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    My husband was diagnosed with PPA 3 years ago. He has had speech therapy but it has not helped much.
    Johns Hopkins was having a trial with brain stimulation but he did not qualify. It is very frustrating trying
    to talk and understand what he is trying to say. It would be wonderful to have something that could speak
    his thoughts for him.

    Helen Trotto

  • Veerabhadrappa MB
    May 16, 2019 at 7:36 am

    This is an exiting news giving some hope for people like my wife recently diagnosed as having PPA (primary Progressive Aphasia). This changes ones lifestyle. We are open for any kind of trial.

  • Lynn
    May 16, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Please please please make this work. My husband’s only been able to utter “three minus two, twenty, four. One, one, one. F! GD!” for over five years. Madness. Soul crushing.

  • Patricia McIntyre
    May 16, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Yes I too know a young man who had s stoke that paralyzed his right side. He is only ably to communicate in occasional words. He is a bright young man 35 years old. Had the stroke at age 25. When talking with him, if I ask him a question he goes ummm. But I know he knows what he wants to say .. it seems locked in. Id love to let his mother and him know that there may be help and I know they’d be up for clinical trials as well. Thank you for considering him! PS he is able to walk and drive.

  • Sheree
    May 16, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    What about someone with Primary Progressive Aphasia I still have speech at this point but getting words together to speak is questionable. I’d love to hear more about this study. This is such great news. Would like to know results of PPA vs stroke

  • Anonymous
    May 16, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Leonard Nordson

    I HAD MY STROKE 6 YEARS AGO . IT LEFT ME APHASIA AND ABAXIA TOO ! IS THERE’S ANYWAY I COULD TRY THIS NEW SCIENTIFIC

    INVENTION … I’D GIVE ANYTHING IN THE WORLD TO TRY IT !! REALLY ! ANYTHING ELSE IS NORMAL ! I HAD MY DRIVERS LISCENSE SUSPEDED FOR

    14 MONTHS ! I WENT IN THE D.M.V …. I WENT BEHIND THE WHEEL AGAIN …. I PAST MY LISCENSE RE-NEWAL .. I PAST WITH 98% !

    PLEASE PUT DOWN FOR A REAL I HAVE TO TRY THIS SCIENTIFIC BREAK THRU !! MY AGE IS 66 PLEASE !!

    Leonard (Len) Nordson

  • Anonymous
    May 17, 2019 at 10:22 am

    As you can see we are all desperate for help—-not only is Aphasia a nightmare for the stroke survivor, like being trapped in a box with no way out, it is also a nightmare for the caregiver who everyday is in search for some kind of answer. Living with a ss with Aphasia is like living with “Rain Man” 24/7—-you cannot possibly understand it unless you live it. We are always hoping for answers.

  • Micharl Bamonte
    May 17, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Would this be of any benefit for a person suffering from Primary Progressive Aphasia.

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