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Volume 593 Issue 7858, 13 May 2021

Character building

Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) have the potential to restore communication to people who have lost the ability to move or speak. To date, the focus has largely been on motor skills such as reaching or grasping. In this week’s issue, Francis Willett and his colleagues present the results from an intracortical BCI that decodes attempted handwriting movements from neural activity in the motor cortex and translates it to text in real time. The researchers worked with a man who is paralysed from the neck down, asking him to try to write by imagining he was holding a pen on a piece of paper. The BCI used a neural network to translate the neural signals into letters, allowing the man to reach a writing speed of 90 characters per minute with an accuracy of 94.1%. The cover features aggregated images of the alphabet derived from the study participant’s neural activity as he thought about writing.

Cover image: K. Krause/Nature adapted from F. R. Willett et al. Nature 593, 249–254 (2021).

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