Tag Archives: brain computer interface

Brain control with light: neuroengineering at MIT

Just a nod to a must-read article at Wired on the new1 technology of neuroengineering:

Boyden directs MIT’s Neuroengineering and Neuromedia Lab, part of the MIT Media Lab. He explains the mission of neuroengineering this way: “If we take seriously the idea that our minds are implemented in the circuits of our brains, then it becomes a top priority to understand how to engineer brains for the better.”

Here, neuroscience is not merely studied, it is applied. Which is why we’re off again, to see the molecular engineer’s microscope, the viral growing area, and the machine where they cut micron-thin slices of mouse brains in order to evaluate what changes they’ve made using the rest of the equipment.

This video illustrates one of the most potentially disruptive technologies ever:

1:Although the article points out that, depending on how far you expand the definition, human beings have been “neuroengineering” for all history.

Turn on, jack in, zone out – the coming of the global computer hive-mind

Metaverse cyberpunkKevin Kelly admits he’s not the first person to postulate that “a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. He also reckons that cloud computing is amplifying the effect:

The majority of the content of the web is created within this one virtual computer. Links are programmed, clicks are chosen, files are moved and code is installed from the dispersed, extended cloud created by consumers and enterprise – the tons of smart phones, Macbooks, Blackberries, and workstations we work in front of.

Nova Spivak agrees – which makes sense, as he’s trying to build Web3.0, a.k.a. the Semantic Web – but suggests that we’ll avoid a Terminator-esque ending because human consciousness may be the key to the whole thing:

What all this means to me is that human beings may form an important and potentially irreplaceable part of the OM — the One Machine — the emerging global superorganism. In particular today the humans are still the most intelligent parts. But in the future when machine intelligence may exceed human intelligence a billionfold, humans may still be the only or at least most conscious parts of the system. Because of the uniquely human capacity for consciousness (actually, animals and insects are conscious too), I think we have an important role to play in the emerging superorganism. We are it’s awareness. We are who watches, feels, and knows what it is thinking and doing ultimately.

Maybe that sounds a little bit Mondo-2000 techno-hippie nineties-retro to you, hmmm? OMGZ maybe Spivak is a victim of terrible brain changes wrought by teh ev1lz of teh intarwubz!!!1 OH NOES:

Researchers have found that the brains of ‘digital natives’ are developing to deal more efficiently with searching and filtering large amounts of information, and making quick decisions. On the down side, that behaviour is changing the brain’s neural patterns impairing the social skills of heavy web users (what’s new?) and even triggering an increase in conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder.

Well, it looks like the internet must have eroded the fundamentals of cause and effect, too… who knew? I guess there’s no point in delaying the inevitable, so I’m off to get my cerebral jack fitted so I can transcend the limitations of this stupid meat prison. The future is within our grasp, brothers and sisters! [image by Katiya Rhode]

Brain computer interface works on monkeys

Good news on the Brain Computer Interface front, from PhysOrg:

Researchers in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health have demonstrated for the first time that a direct artificial connection from the brain to muscles can restore voluntary movement in monkeys whose arms have been temporarily anesthetized.

“A robotic arm would be better for someone whose physical arm has been lost or if the muscles have atrophied, but if you have an arm whose muscles can be stimulated, a person can learn to reactivate them with this technology,” says Dr. Fetz.

Here, the researchers discovered that any motor cortex cell, regardless of whether it had been previously associated with wrist movement, was capable of stimulating muscle activity.

This finding greatly expands the potential number of neurons that could control signals for brain-computer interfaces and also illustrates the flexibility of the motor cortex.

Researcher Dr. Fetz says that this is still around a decade away from clinical applications, but hopefully this kind of research will eventually lead to new treatments for paralysis.

[image from Retinafunk on flickr]