Brain Interface

Whether to improve our cognition or as a lasts desperate attempt to survive while waiting for better bodies to replace our ailing ones, brain interfaces which allow us to communicate directly with technology are already on their way. Experiments have been performed with monkeys thousands of miles apart with one brain controlling the other monkey’s actions. At the moment it takes months of training and computer learning to determine which signals do what, but with the ever exponential increase in computing power that time will be significantly reduced in future.

So rather than asking Siri out loud how many calories in a banana, perhaps one day just thinking the question will be enough for a flood of information to appear in your mind ready for you do dive into and review?

This section will keep you up to date with the latest developments and real world examples of the continuing blurring between man and machine.


Latest News

Conjoined twins hint at brain interface – ABC News – 25-Jul-2018
Conjoined twins have separate brains but can communicate thoughts.
They see able to see or feel each other’s sensory input.
FMRI showed connection via a single passage to the thalamus.
The two million neurons can convey emotion, awareness and sensation.
“We can have telepathic communication … of all our cognitive awareness.”

Developing the right material for brain implants – The Verge – 30-May-2018
The Verge interview Christopher Bettinger from Carnegie Mellon University.
Devices use electrons to pass information.
Neurons use ions like sodium and potassium.
Small movements of the probe can damage the tissue over time.
Damage doesn’t cause disease but does reduce life of the device.
Polymer gels can bend and stretch so may last longer.
Could attach devices to other places, e.g. spine or bladder.

Lightning switches off woman’s brain implant – New Scientist – 1-May-2018
Lightning struck Slovenian woman’s apartment affecting stimulation device.
Device had automatically shut down and needed to be reset.
Brain stimulator stops her from having neck muscle spasms and tremors.
Lightning strike also destroyed her TV and air conditioner.
Implants should not be recharged while charger plugged into the mains.

My Brain Implant Made Me Do It – Scientific American – 3-Apr-2018
Deep brain stimulation sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain.
DBS may influence an individual’s behavior and perception of the world.
During DBS treatment for severe OCD one patient developed a distinct and entirely new music preference for Johnny Cash.
Where does responsibility lie if a person acts under the influence of a brain implant?
Historically, ethics have largely focused on the autonomous individual.
Potential for malicious interference of these implants by criminals.

High-density, stretchable grid for neural recording and treatment – Kurzweil AI – 12-Mar-2018
Soft, elastic, high-density stretchable electrode grid developed.
Suitable for long-term, stable neural recording and treatment of neurological disorders.
Avoids the usual damage to neurons from rigid metallic components.
Consists of gold coated titanium dioxide nanowires embedded into silicone rubber.
Uses very little material so can use gold without becoming too costly.

Low-cost EEG can reconstruct images of what you see – Kurzweil AI – 27-Feb-2018
Machine learning algorithms digitally recreated faces shown to test subjects.
EEG is more practical, portable, and inexpensive compared to fMRI.
EEG captures activity at the millisecond scale.
Could provide communication for people who are unable to verbally communicate.
Also forensic uses for law enforcement in gathering eyewitness information.

40g of cheese a day may be good for health – NHS – 4-Nov-2017
10% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Biggest reduction in risk came from around 40g – a matchbox sized piece.
Cheese is a good source of dietary vitamins, minerals and protein.
Meta-analysis study of of more than 34,000 people.

Military tests brain implants that change your mood – IB Times – 27-Nov-2017
DARPA is funding research into “mind control” chips.
Closed loop brain implants use artificial intelligence to detect mood disorders.
Electric shocks automatically jolt a person’s brain back to a healthy state.
Shocks can also improve performance in some tasks.
Already tested on 6 patients with epilepsy.
Ethical concerns that technology exposes person’s inner feelings.

Scientists Boost Human Memory With a Brain Implant – Futurism – 14-Nov-2017
Memory prosthesis implanted in 20 volunteers with epilepsy.
Device collected data on their brain to determin the pattern associated with optimal memory performance.
Device’s electrodes then stimulated the brain using that pattern during later tests.
Short-term memory by roughly 15 percent and working memory by about 25 percent.

Probe record activity of hundreds of neurons simultaneously – Kurzweil AI – 8-Nov-2017
Neuropixels probes are similar to electrophysiology probes, but…
1. thinner than a human hair with 960 electrical sensors
2. incorporate a nearly complete recording system — reducing hardware size
Will improve understanding of how large coalitions of nerve cells coordinate,

DARPA to Develop Wireless Brain Interface – Extreme Tech – 24-Jul-17
Neural Input-Output Bus (NIOB) project is to create an implantable, wireless, wideband brain-computer interface. Aim is to engage more than one million neurons in parallel to enable rich two-way communication. Recording and stimulating brain activity with an effective data rate of over 1Gbps. Scheduled to go to clinical trials in 2021.

Brain implant turns ‘loser’ mice into aggressive fighters – Ars Technica – 18-Jul-2017
In tube test the mice who shoves the most wins the dominance game.
Scientists used optogenetics to trigger the dmPFC region of a low-ranking mouse’s brain.
The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex is associated with “effortful behavior” and “social dominance.”
Stimulated low ranking mice won almost every contest.
In some mice the winner effect continued after light stimulation stopped.

Elon Musk wants to enhance us as superhuman cyborgs – Kurzweil AI – 21-Apr-2017
Neuralink would allow for radically improved communication between people.
Digital tertiary layer to augment the brain’s current cortex and limbic layers.
At the least it should lead to some exciting neuroscience breakthroughs.
Musk is concerned that either a small group of people monopolize AI power, or the AI goes rogue.
It’s not clear how we could be assured our brains aren’t hacked, spied on, and controlled by a repressive government or by other humans.

New brain implant design to restore vision to the blind – Nextbigfuture – 9-Feb-2017
Until now, implanted electrodes eventually become useless, as scar tissue forms that degrades their electrical connection to brain cells.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School using new kind of implant that rests on the surface of the brain.
Magnetic fields aren’t impeded by tissue forming around an implant as electric currents are.
Tests to begin in monkeys to stimulate the visual cortex – creating the sensation of sight without the eyes’ input.
Project is intended to lead to devices that can restore vision to blind people long-term.

Scientists communicate with Locked-in patients – BBC – 31-Jan-2017
People with locked-in state cannot move a single muscle, but their brains are fully functional.
Can answer simple yes/no questions.
Quality of life in patients is high.

Elon Musk Says “Maybe Next Month” About His Neural Lace Project – Inverse – 25-Jan-2017
Hypothetical computer interface that would be injected into the brain.
Very fine net that would run next to your neurons.
Could protect us from the A.I. takeover by either making us smarter than A.I. or convincing them we’re one of them.

Low cost ‘brain-controlled’ telepresence robot (VIDEO) – CIO Australia – 13-Jan-2017
Aubot’s Teleport telepresence robot can use the MindWave mind control interface.
Gives users choice in where they look, who they talk to and where they explore remotely.
Can also be controlled using a touchscreen.
Costs only A$3800 (around £2200).
COMMENT: Awe inspiring video showing how medical technology can entirely change people’s lives.

The next generation of brain implant is a teeny tiny coil – Popular Science – 9-Dec-2016
The micro coils make mind-controlled prosthetics easier to use.
Most brain implants are electrode-based needing a direct contact between the metal and the brain and often become less effective over time.
Micro coils are thin metal wires with single sharp bends in them which use magnetic energy instead.
Should last longer and their directional field will allow for more fine-tuned muscle movements.
Brain implants have the potential to help people with everything from Parkinson’s disease to blindness.

First home brain implant lets locked-in woman communicate – New Scientist – 12-Nov-2016
Used at home in a person’s day-to-day life, without the need for doctors and engineers
58 years old woman was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2008.
Relies on an eye-tracking device to communicate – but doesn’t work well outdoors.
Existing implants tend to need recalibrating by a team of engineers on a daily basis.
University Medical Center Utrecht device has 2 electrodes that record brain activity and wirelessly sends a signal to an external computer tablet.
After 6 months training patient has 95% accuracy and takes 20 seconds to select a letter.

$100 million project to make intelligence-boosting brain implant – New Scientist – 20-Oct-2016
The company, Kernel, was launched earlier this year by entrepreneur Bryan Johnson.
The first experiments planned will be on memory.
The first super-humans are those who have deficits to start with.
Johnson: “You could build a prosthetic for the hippocampus that would help restore the circuitry, and restore memory”
Plan to develop this prosthesis to enhance memory provide a cognitive boost.
COMMENT: grand plans but very early days – only just starting to record brain activity

Paralysed man feels through robotic fingers (VIDEO) – Independent – 13-Oct-2016
Robotic arm connected directly to brain of paralysed 28-year-old man.
Microelectrodes about half the size of a shirt button were surgically implanted in his brain.
He said it felt like “my fingers” were being touched or pushed.
Before the operation, imaging identified exact places that corresponded to sensations in his hand.
The ultimate goal is to create a system which moves and feels just like a natural arm would.

Individual Fingers on Prosthetics Moved With Thoughts Alone (VIDEO) – IEET – 29-Feb-2016
128 electrode sensors tested on epilepsy patient.
Same electrode array used to monitor then control movements.
Researchers programmed the prosthesis to move the corresponding finger.
8 percent accuracy achieved without extensive user training.
COMMENT: Imagine the capabilities and accuracy available with 10,000 electrodes – which should only be about a decade away with continuing exponential growth.

U.S. Military Plans Cyborg Soldiers with new DARPA Project – Newsweek – 21-Jan-2016
Implantable chip could connect their brains directly to computers.
Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) research program aims to increase brain neuron interaction from tens of thousands to millions at a time.
Could improve hearing or vision by feeding external information into the brain

Brain monitoring takes a leap out of the lab – University of California – 12-Jan-2016
Dry EEG sensors easier to apply than wet sensors.
Still provide high-density/low-noise brain activity data – 64-channel.
Mobile sensors will allow researchers to track brain states throughout the day.
In future using a brain-machine interface might become as natural as using your smartphone is today.

Brain-to-Brain Communication in Action – INVERSE – 17-Dec-2015
Experiment 1: Inquirer sees dancing lights when respondent thinks the answer to question.
*guessed object correctly 72 percent of the time compared with only 18 percent in control rounds.
Experiment 2: Receiver’s fingers control video game being played by someone else.
Still limited, clunky, error-prone at the moment but in future brain-to-text-message apps could be just the beginning.

Would upgrading your brain be too good to refuse? – IEET – 14-Dec-2015
2008 – BrainGate patient controls computer cursor using a chip embedded into his motor cortex.
BrainGate patient controls multi-jointed robotic arm.
patients with extreme depression undergo “deep brain stimulation” (DBS)
Pilots control more features of increasingly complex aircraft.
Psychologically “normal” people enhance their day-to-day happiness.
Creation of new, rich, unique emotional experiences that humans are presently not privy to.
controlling extra limbs with the same intuitive dexterity as our own hands and fingers.

Optoelectrode probe reads and stimulates neurons simultaneously – Kurzweil AI – 12-Oct-2015
Uses zinc oxide – an optically transparent semiconductor.
Chip is just a few millimeters square with sixteen micrometer-sized pin-like optoelectrodes.
Previous devices were physically bulky and used separate components for light emission and electrical sensing.

Human moves prosthetic arm with direct brain interface – Tech Insider – 13-Sep-2015
DARPA-sponsored researchers implant tiny micro-electrode arrays into brain cortex.
Brain signals processed real-time to control robotic limb.
Second subject able to sense touch.

Brain-to-text reconstructs spoken phrases – Frontiers of Neuroscience – 12-Jun-2015
Early steps with a limited set of words in the dictionary. Brain activity decoded from pre-epilepsy surgey electrode implants.

Injectable electronics unfold to monitor brain activity – Royal Society of Chemistry – 8-Jun-2015
Macroporous mesh can be rolled up and injected with a syringe.
Unfurls up to 30 times the width of the needle.
Tests in mice had no immune response and monitored brain activity.

Brain-reading implant controls arm – BBC News – 22-May-2015
“Two tiny sensors were implanted into his brain to monitor the activity of around 100 neurons.” – Imagine the control ability when its 100 sensors monitoring 5,000 neurons.

Melon headband measures electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in real time – BBC News (video) – 24-Sep-14

Experimental brain implant can suppress seizures ‘in 0.8 seconds’ – Epilepsy Research UK – 27-Feb-14



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