It’s time, the computer is now able to “read” your thoughts

Friday, October 1, 2021 – 21:57 Update: 02-10-2021 12:38

severe speech disorders

Dutch and German scientists succeeded in letting a person hear the exact word she was thinking at that moment through a laptop. It represents an important step in research aimed at enabling people with severe speech disabilities to communicate.”

Electrodes deep in the brain

In this study, researchers from Maastricht University, University of Bremen and the Kempinhag Experience Center used machine learning to allow an epilepsy patient to hear the word she wanted to pronounce itself with electrodes deep in her brain. The results were recently published in the scientific journal Communications Biology.


At the start of the study, the patient in question read some text. From this, the computer extracted the relationship between spoken words and brain activity using machine learning. Finally, the system produced sound directly from the measured brain signals, even when the patient imagined she was just talking.

imaginary speech

“Our system shows that imaginary speech and natural speech share some basic brain processes,” said study leader Christian Herf. “Our data models, which are based on brain activity from normal speech, also work for imagined speech.”


Herf worked closely with neurosurgeon Peter Cobain of the University of Maastricht UMC+ for this study. Placement of depth electrodes in the brain of an epileptic patient. This often occurs when patients with epilepsy are treated by Kempinhagian neurologists and it must be clarified in which part of the brain the epileptic seizures occur.

Neuroprosthesis for speech

The remarkable result of this study on imagined speech is an important step forward in the search for the development of a speech neural prosthesis. Thus, people with serious speech disorders as a result of acquired brain damage, such as the consequences of a cerebral infarction, will be able to communicate in a more or less normal way. “Following this initial 100-word feasibility study, we are currently expanding our trials to enable patients to correctly practice speech visualization and produce comprehensible sentences,” Herf said.

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