Generalizing neural signal-to-text brain-computer interfaces

Janaki Sheth, Ariel Tankus, Michelle Tran, Nader Pouratian, Itzhak Fried, William Speier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) may help patients with faltering communication abilities due to neurodegenerative diseases produce text or speech by direct neural processing. However, their practical realization has proven difficult due to limitations in speed, accuracy, and generalizability of existing interfaces. The goal of this study is to evaluate the BCI performance of a robust speech decoding system that translates neural signals evoked by speech to a textual output. While previous studies have approached this problem by using neural signals to choose from a limited set of possible words, we employ a more general model that can type any word from a large corpus of English text. Approach: In this study, we create an end-to-end BCI that translates neural signals associated with overt speech into text output. Our decoding system first isolates frequency bands in the input depthelectrode signal encapsulating differential information regarding production of various phonemic classes. These bands form a feature set that then feeds into a Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) model which discerns at each time point probability distributions across all phonemes uttered by a subject. Finally, a particle filtering algorithm temporally smooths these probabilities by incorporating prior knowledge of the English language to output text corresponding to the decoded word. The generalizability of our decoder is driven by the lack of a vocabulary constraint on this output word. Main result: This method was evaluated using a dataset of 6 neurosurgical patients implanted with intra-cranial depth electrodes to identify seizure foci for potential surgical treatment of epilepsy.We averaged 32% word accuracy and on the phoneme-level obtained 46% precision, 51% recall and 73.32% average phoneme error rate while also achieving significant increases in speed when compared to several other BCI approaches. Significance: Our study employs a more general neural signal-to-text model which could facilitate communication by patients in everyday environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035023
JournalBiomedical Physics and Engineering Express
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain-computer interfaces
  • Intra-cranial depth electrodes
  • Neural speech recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Physiology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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