Real-time synthesis of imagined speech processes from minimally invasive recordings of neural activity

M. Angrick*, M.C. Ottenhoff, L. Diener, D. Ivucic, G. Ivucic, S. Goulis, J. Saal, A.J. Colon, L. Wagner, D.J. Krusienski, P.L. Kubben, T. Schultz, C. Herff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Miguel Angrick et al. develop an intracranial EEG-based method to decode imagined speech from a human patient and translate it into audible speech in real-time. This report presents an important proof of concept that acoustic output can be reconstructed on the basis of neural signals, and serves as a valuable step in the development of neuroprostheses to help nonverbal patients interact with their environment.Speech neuroprosthetics aim to provide a natural communication channel to individuals who are unable to speak due to physical or neurological impairments. Real-time synthesis of acoustic speech directly from measured neural activity could enable natural conversations and notably improve quality of life, particularly for individuals who have severely limited means of communication. Recent advances in decoding approaches have led to high quality reconstructions of acoustic speech from invasively measured neural activity. However, most prior research utilizes data collected during open-loop experiments of articulated speech, which might not directly translate to imagined speech processes. Here, we present an approach that synthesizes audible speech in real-time for both imagined and whispered speech conditions. Using a participant implanted with stereotactic depth electrodes, we were able to reliably generate audible speech in real-time. The decoding models rely predominately on frontal activity suggesting that speech processes have similar representations when vocalized, whispered, or imagined. While reconstructed audio is not yet intelligible, our real-time synthesis approach represents an essential step towards investigating how patients will learn to operate a closed-loop speech neuroprosthesis based on imagined speech.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1055
Number of pages10
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2021




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