Tag Archives: neurology

Brain achieves motor memory with a prosthetic device

braindevelopMore progress has been made in the field of artificial telekinesis by researchers at University of California, who have shown that the brains of macacque monkeys can learn how to manipulate a prosthetic through thought alone:

…macaque monkeys using brain signals learned how to move a computer cursor to various targets. What the researchers learned was that the brain could develop a mental map of a solution to achieve the task with high proficiency, and that it adhered to that neural pattern without deviation, much like a driver sticks to a given route commuting to work.

“The profound part of our study is that this is all happening with something that is not part of one’s own body. We have demonstrated that the brain is able to form a motor memory to control a disembodied device in a way that mirrors how it controls its own body. That has never been shown before.”

This is an exciting development. Developing the means to control prosthetics as if they were part of your own body would improve the lives of paraplegics, and even offer the possibility of extending baseline human abilities.

[from Physorg, via KurzweilAI][image from Physorg]

Brain electrodes: in and out

silke1Following on nicely from Paul’s discussion of direct-to-brain broadband – and Robert Koslover’s comment – here we have news of the first read-write brain electrode from a company called IMEC:

Today’s deep-brain stimulation probes use millimeter-size electrodes. These stimulate, in a highly unfocused way, a large area of the brain and have significant unwanted side effects.

IMEC’s design and modeling strategy allows developing advanced brain implants consisting of multiple electrodes enabling simultaneous stimulation and recording. This strategy was used to create prototype probes with 10 micrometer-size electrodes and various electrode topologies.

These new design approaches open up possibilities for more effective stimulation with less side effects, reduced energy consumption due to focusing the stimulation current on the desired brain target, and closed-loop control adapting the stimulation based on the recorded effect.

Presumably the avenue towards the development of devices for direct-to-brain broadband will be through the development of ever more sophisticated products of this kind, possibly travelling via wirehead-style ecstasy generators.

[from this press release from IMEC, via Technovelgy][image from IMEC press release]

Science and storytelling

story-corpsWhy do people love stories, anyway? Scientific American reviews recent research and speculation, rounding up ideas — stories, really — from psychology, neurology, anthropology, and evolutionary theory. A taste:

In support for the idea that stories act as practice for real life are imaging studies that reveal similar brain ac­tivity during viewings of real people and animated cha­racters. In 2007 [Raymond A. Mar, assistant professor of psychology at York University in Toronto] conducted a study using Waking Life, a 2001 film in which live footage of actors was traced so that the characters appear to be animated drawings. Mar used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan volunteers’ brains as they watched matching footage of the real actors and the corresponding animated characters. During the real footage, brain activity spiked strongly in the superior temporal sulcus and the temporoparietal junction, areas associated with processing biological motion. The same areas lit up to a lesser extent for the animated footage. “This difference in brain activation could be how we distinguish between fantasy and reality,” Mar says.

[Story Corps van: photo by Omar Omar]

Martian chronicle: Working the interplanetary night shift

MarsThink your schedule is crazy? Spare a thought for the 150 Phoenix Mars lander scientists:

“Living on a Martian day is like traveling two time zones every three days over and over,” said [Laura] Barger, who is an instructor of medicine in Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine. “Everyone has a circadian clock. . . . When it isn’t able to synchronize with a Martian day, you get sleep disorders, decreased alertness and decremented performance.”

NASA is experimenting with soft-light boxes and an adjusted sleep schedule to help the Mars explorers stay alert. And it’s funding the two-year, $350,000 Harvard study in the hopes that results might help doctors, police, firefighers, and other earthlings who work skewed shifts.

[Mars image: jasonb42882]