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Brain Voices

September 22, 2016

Scientists are beginning to reconstruct the words people hear based on electrical activity in their brains.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Listening to brainwaves…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Right now, as you’re listening to my voice, every word I say triggers a unique pattern of brainwaves. Scientists at UC Berkeley have now learned to analyze these brainwaves and reconstruct the original words that made them. Brian Pasley and his team recorded the electrical activity produced by regions of the brain in epilepsy patients while they listened to human speech. Then they made a mathematical model that predicts what sound the person heard based upon the electrical activity that was recorded from different areas of the brain.

BRIAN PASLEY (University of California, Berkeley):

In this case, we were accurate enough to reconstruct to some extent the sound that was causing those brain responses and to use that to decode individual words.

HIRSHON:

Pasley says this is the first step in understanding how we extract meaning from other peoples’ voices.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Amy Bauernfeind