Researchers from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK, have developed a device that they say could help patients with severe paralysis speak by transforming their breath into words.
Reportedly the first invention of its kind, according to a news story from the university, the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device is designed for patients with complete or partial loss of voluntary muscle control who don’t have the ability to make purposeful movements such as sniffing or blinking, the story explains.
In such patients with severe paralysis and loss of speech, the story continues, the device analyzes changes in breathing patterns and converts “breath signals” into words using pattern-recognition software and an analogue-to-digital converter. A speech synthesizer then reads the words aloud.
Device developers David Kerr, MSc, PhD, CPhys, MInstP, senior lecturer in Longborough University’s School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Kaddour Bouazza-Marouf, BSc, PhD, FIMechE, CEng, Reader in Mechatronics in Medicine at the university, and Dr Atul Gaur, consultant anaesthetist at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, note in the news story that the device learns from its user and builds up its knowledge as it goes, and enables the user to control how he or she wishes to communicate.
“When it comes to teaching our invention to recognize words and phrases, we have so far recorded a 97.5% success rate,” Kerr says in the news story.
“Current AAC devices are slow and range from paper-based tools to expensive, sophisticated electronic devices. Our AAC device uses analogue signals in continuous form, which should give us a greater speed advantage because more information can be collected in a shorter space of time,” he adds.
Gaur states in the news story that the device could transform the way people with severe muscular weakness or other speech disorders communicate.
“In an intensive care setting, the technology has the potential to be used to make an early diagnosis of locked-in syndrome (LIS), by allowing patients, including those on ventilators, to communicate effectively for the first time by breathing,” he adds.
[Source: Loughborough University]