Groundbreaking A.I. tech helps Stroke Survivor Regain Her Voice

NNicholas August 25, 2023 10:17 PM

A breakthrough in medical technology has allowed a woman, who lost her ability to speak after suffering a stroke 18 years ago, to regain her voice. This innovative application of artificial intelligence and brain implants has been tested on Ann Johnson, transforming her life dramatically.

Stroke leads to locked-in syndrome

Ann Johnson was lead a normal life up until 2005 when she suffered a stroke that rendered her speechless. The stroke occurred when she was 30 years old and eight years into her teaching career at Luther College. This tragic event left her with a condition known as locked-in syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles except those that control the eyes. Despite her inability to speak or move, she remained fully aware and cognizant of her surroundings.

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of California Berkley (UCB) carried out groundbreaking research on a new brain-computer technology. Johnson was chosen as a test subject for this experimental technology. The objective of this technology is to create a digital avatar that can facilitate communication for those who are unable to do so. The UCSF has expressed optimism that this innovative technology will, in future, allow many more people to communicate through digital avatars that resemble human beings.

A sophisticated technology involving 253 electrodes implanted on Johnson's brain was employed to decode her brain signals into words. Dr. Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at UCSF, was responsible for implanting these electrodes. These electrodes intercepted brain signals that originally would have directed muscle movements in Ann's lips, tongue, jaw and larynx, as well as her face for speech. A cable connected the electrodes to a bank of computers, effectively turning Johnson's brain signals into discernable words.

Training A.I. to recognize speech signals

Johnson then embarked on a journey of training the system's artificial intelligence algorithms to recognize her unique brain signals for speech. This intricate process involved repeating phrases from a conversational vocabulary of 1,024 words until the computer was able to recognize the brain activity associated with all the basic sounds of speech. The innovative approach not only exemplifies the potential of artificial intelligence in medical applications, but also the resilience of human spirit.

Restoring the lost voice

After a rigorous training process, Johnson's ability to speak was finally restored. The system was trained using a clip of her speaking during her wedding, taken before her stroke. Upon hearing her synthesized voice, Johnson described the sensation as akin to hearing an old voice. This groundbreaking success not only affords Johnson the ability to communicate verbally once more but also offers hope to other patients stricken with similar conditions.

More articles

Also read

Here are some interesting articles on other sites from our network.