Bilingual AI Brain Implant Aids Stroke Survivor in Communicating in Spanish and English

By LG Staff

By LG Staff

June 3, 2024

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have created a bilingual brain implant that utilizes artificial intelligence to help a stroke survivor communicate in both Spanish and English for the first time.

A team of nearly a dozen scientists from the university’s Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses spent several years developing a decoding system capable of translating the man’s brain activity into sentences in both languages and displaying them on a screen.

An article published on May 20 in Nature Biomedical Engineering details their research and identifies the man as Pancho. At age 20, Pancho became severely paralyzed due to a stroke he suffered in the early 2000s. While he can moan and grunt, he is unable to articulate clear words. Pancho is a native Spanish speaker who learned English as an adult.

Led by Dr. Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon and co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses, Pancho received a neural implant in February 2019, enabling scientists to begin monitoring his brain activity.

Using an AI technique known as a neural network, researchers trained Pancho’s implant to decode words based on the brain activity generated when he tried to speak them. This AI training process allows the brain implant, scientifically referred to as a brain-computer interface device, to process information similarly to the human brain.

By 2021, the technology had significantly restored Pancho’s ability to communicate, but only in English.

“Speech decoding has primarily been shown for monolinguals but half the world is bilingual with each language contributing to a person’s personality and worldview,” Chang’s research team stated on X. “There is a need to develop decoders that let bilinguals communicate with both languages.”

The 2021 research laid the groundwork for developing a decoding system that eventually enabled Pancho’s brain implant to become bilingual in Spanish and English.

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