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Duke team receives multidisciplinary grant to extract speech directly from the brain

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A team including Saurabh Sinha, MD, PhD, has received a $100,000 research innovator grant to explore a promising new technology that constructs speech directly from the brain. This multidisciplinary research, made possible by an award from the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences (DIBS), will advance our knowledge of how the brain processes language. It also opens potential communication avenues for patients with debilitating conditions that reduce their ability to speak.

The Duke research team's principal investigator will be Neurosurgery's Greg Cogan, PhD. The team also includes Derek Southwell, MD, PhD (Duke Neurosurgery), John Pearson, PhD (Biostatistics and Bioinformatics), and Jonathan Viventi, PhD (Biomedical Engineering).

Communication is a key component of human existence. People without the ability to communicate with others often feel isolated, lonely, and frustrated. However, people with debilitating neuromuscular conditions often have difficulty communicating through language.

The grant will allow the team to explore a promising new technology that constructs speech directly from the brain. The team will develop pattern analysis techniques to extract speech and language information directly from brain signals, while also measuring the brain signals at a much higher resolution than previously done. The team hopes to use this information to create better-quality speech sounds for patients with neuromuscular disorders, helping them speak more clearly.

The $100,000 grant was one of six 2019 Research Incubator Awards from the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences (DIBS). The Research Incubator Awards promote high-risk/high-return neuroscience research that is collaborative, crosses academic boundaries, and is likely to draw external funding. The projects also help train the next generation of scientists by involving graduate students and postdoctoral associates.