A Prosthesis For Speech

"For more than eight years, Erik Ramsey has been trapped in his own body. At 16, Ramsey suffered a brain-stem injury after a car crash, leaving him with a condition known as 'locked-in' syndrome. Unlike other forms of paralysis, locked-in patients can still feel sensation, but they cannot move on their own, and they are unable to control the complex vocal muscles required to speak. In Ramsey's case, his eyes are his only means of communication: skyward for yes, downward for no.

Now researchers at Boston University are developing brain-reading computer software that in essence translates thoughts into speech. Combined with a speech synthesizer, such brain-machine interfacing technology has enabled Ramsey to vocalize vowels in real time--a huge step toward recovering full speech for Ramsey and other patients with paralyzing speech disorders. The researchers are presenting their work at the annual Acoustical Society of America meeting in Paris this week..."