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A man who has been paralysed for the last eight years might be able to "speak" again, by having his thoughts read by a computer.

Eric Ramsey was in a car accident that left him aware of his surroundings, but unable to move or speak. The only way he can communicate is through eye movements. No surprise, then, that he volunteered to have some electrodes implanted in his brain in the hope that researchers could learn to read his mind.

The electrode was implanted six millimetres under the surface of his brain, and monitors the signal from 41 neurons in the area of the brain that controls speech.

The research team tracked the output of the electrode whenever they asked Ramsey to imagine speaking. So far, they have managed to correctly identify the signals associated with Ramsey imagining saying "oh", "ee" and "oo" around 80 per cent of the time, but they are hopeful that they will be able to do even better.

The work was presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California, on 5 November by Jonathan Brumberg of Boston University, according to New Scientist.

Joe Wright of Neural Signals, a firm involved in developing the technology Ramsey is using to "speak" told the magazine: "Conversation is what we're hoping for, but we're pretty far from that." ®

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