Brainstorm Health: Biogen Earnings, Thought to Speech Device, ADHD Device

April 24, 2019, 10:43 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

University of California, San Francisco researchers have done something truly remarkable. In their words: “We designed a neural decoder that explicitly leverages kinematic and sound representations encoded in human cortical activity to synthesize audible speech.”

Ok, let’s simplify that a bit. The scientists were able to translate brain waves into intelligible speech, including full sentences that even mimicked study participants’ natural speaking cadences, according to preliminary research published in the journal Nature.

The technology involved placing electrodes on the surface of severe epilepsy patients’ brains in order to record the brain activity associated with speech. A computer was then used to create an algorithm that could then decode those signals—and the result was a virtual speech generator which, theoretically, could one day fuel technology to restore speech to stroke, ALS, and other neurodegenerative disorder patients.

In fact, that’s the next step in the project—to test out the technology on people who have already lost their ability to speak. The NIH-funded project is, so far, a proof of concept. But it’s an extraordinarily tantalizing concept.

Read on for the day’s news.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves first-ever ADHD device. Federal regulators have cleared a pioneering device to treat ADHD in children. Approved for kids between the ages of seven and 12 (who aren't currently on prescription ADHD medication), the cell phone-sized device emits small amounts of electrical current through a patch worn overnight. The current then activates the brain regions that help regulate attention span and behavior. With millions of American children diagnosed with ADHD, researchers have been attempting to find treatment means that don't involve heavy medication. (CBS News)


Biogen promises a pivot. Shares of Biogen slumped 2.5% in Wednesday trading despite a bullish, better-than-expected earnings report fueled by strong sales of the company's multiple sclerosis portfolio, including drugs like Avonex and Tecfidera. The likely reason? Continued concerns over the biotech's catastrophic bet on experimental Alzheimer's drugs, which led some investors to hope for a sign that the company is on the M&A hunt for a late-stage product with a guaranteed path to market. (NASDAQ)


The measles outbreak is officially historic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that measles cases in the U.S. have officially hit a 25-year high, and by far the highest level since the infectious disease was more or less eliminated in the U.S. all the way back in 2000. There have now been 667 total reported cases; measles is a particularly concerning infection because of just how contagious it is. Certain locales, including in New York, have taken to extraordinary measures such as fines and mandatory vaccinations in an effort to combat the spread. (Fox News)


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