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02

Jul

Scientists Invent Mind-Reading System That Lets You Type With Your Brain

Researchers have invented a mind-reading system that, for the first time in history, allows any person to type words and phrases letter by letter, just by thinking. It all occurs in real time, without moving a single muscle or uttering a single word. This is an amazing invention. Not only it will help anyone with serious motor disabilities, but it could potentially affect all of us in an amazing way.

(via Gizmodo)

19

Apr

How We Identify Single Voices In A Crowd

There are plenty of human abilities that we take for granted, which are actually insanely complex. Like picking out a single voice buried amongst the noise of a crowded environment, a problem which has troubled scientists for decades. But now they’ve worked out how we do it — and it could revolutionise speech recognition technology.

The phenomenon — sometimes called the cocktail party effect — allows us to pick out the voice of somebody when all around us is noise. Now, a team of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, has performed experiments on patients undergoing brain surgery to discover how that works. The findings appear in this week’s issue of Nature.

During the surgeries, a thin sheet of 256 electrodes was applied to the temporal lobe — the auditory cortex of the brain — of the participants in order to record neuronal activity. Post-surgery, patients were played audio tracks with multiple voices and asked to identify the words uttered by particular speakers while their brain activity was monitored.

The researchers then used software to reconstruct the brain’s activity and assess how it varied when the patients were listening out for different speakers. Amazingly, the neural cortex only seems to respond to a single voice at a time when we’re concentrating on making it out, effectively shutting out the rest of the acoustic environment which surrounds us. In other words, selective hearing is very much real — we only hear what we want or need to.

While it’s a neat insight, the researchers are also hopeful that it could be a useful tool in assessing hearing impairment and attention deficit disorder. Not just that, they also hope to develop devices for decoding the intentions and thoughts from paralysed patients that cannot communicate.

And then there’s one last potentially lucrative application: voice recognition. One of the major stumbling blocks with Siri and its brethren is their inability to cope in noisy environments. If scientists can get to the bottom of how the temporal lobe itself filters out extraneous noise, consumer technology could make a huge leap forwards.

(via Gizmodo)

10

Apr

A Little Device That’s Trying to Read Your Thoughts

Called the iBrain, this simple-looking contraption is part of an experiment that aims to allow Dr. Hawking — long paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease — to communicate by merely thinking.

The next revolution in UIs?

03

Apr

Sam Harris on “Free Will” (by MichaelShermer)

I’m going to admit its very hard to wrap my head around the facts presented here. Everything Harris says makes sense, yet there’s still a part of me that can’t believe I don’t have free will, whats this part of me? Why can’t I freely change it’s mind? I guess that is exactly the point Harris is proving. I am going to have nightmares about this, haha.

02

Apr


Genetic Atlas Yields A Brainbow Of Information
Scientists have created the first genetic “atlas” of the human brain, and the result is a very pretty Skittles-esque map of the brain as a rainbow. A brainbow.

Genetic Atlas Yields A Brainbow Of Information

Scientists have created the first genetic “atlas” of the human brain, and the result is a very pretty Skittles-esque map of the brain as a rainbow. A brainbow.

29

Mar

psydoctor8:

“MIT researchers turn on a memory”

Researchers chose to test a simple kind of memory — a fear memory. In one experiment, mice were put in a chamber, allowed to explore, and given a foot shock. The next time the mice were put in the same dangerous chamber, they remembered the unpleasant electric shock and froze, taking on a defensive stance. Researchers had, however, inserted a gene that codes for a light-sensitive protein into the cells involved in making a memory. They then tested what happened when they turned on a light to activate those cells, without putting the mice in the same chamber. They saw the freezing behavior, as if the mice were reliving the memory.
“This is the most dramatic way to show that high cognitive phenomenon, like memory recall, can be generated, can be artificially generated by poking cells in the brain,” Tonegawa said in an interview.
He said there were about 20,000 neurons, or brain cells, involved in this particular kind of memory.  [via]

I’ve seen a couple of these optogenetic experiments. It’s pretty fascinating to be able to manipulate the neural response in vivo.  


The world of Dollhouse comes just that much closer.

psydoctor8:

MIT researchers turn on a memory

Researchers chose to test a simple kind of memory — a fear memory. In one experiment, mice were put in a chamber, allowed to explore, and given a foot shock. The next time the mice were put in the same dangerous chamber, they remembered the unpleasant electric shock and froze, taking on a defensive stance. Researchers had, however, inserted a gene that codes for a light-sensitive protein into the cells involved in making a memory. They then tested what happened when they turned on a light to activate those cells, without putting the mice in the same chamber. They saw the freezing behavior, as if the mice were reliving the memory.

This is the most dramatic way to show that high cognitive phenomenon, like memory recall, can be generated, can be artificially generated by poking cells in the brain,” Tonegawa said in an interview.

He said there were about 20,000 neurons, or brain cells, involved in this particular kind of memory.  [via]

I’ve seen a couple of these optogenetic experiments. It’s pretty fascinating to be able to manipulate the neural response in vivo.  

The world of Dollhouse comes just that much closer.

07

Feb

Ethical Questions Surround “Electrical Thinking Cap” That Improves Mental Functions

The implications of such simple, yet potentially amazing technology for “mind hacking” are hard to get my head around - wow. 

(via Gizmodo)

26

Jan

Researchers develop 'wireless optical brain router' to manipulate brain cells

Optogenetics might be a relatively unknown area of neuroscience, but it’s one that, thanks to some new research, could soon find itself (and its rodental subjects) in the spotlight. For the uninitiated, it’s the practice of manipulating animal cells using light (with a little help from gene therapy). Until now, optogenetic equipment has been large and unwieldy, making testing on subjects (read: rats) painstaking. Startup, Kendall Research, has changed all this, creating wireless prototypes that weigh just three grams (0.11 ounces). 

19

Nov

approachingsignificance:

Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?
This is one of the most prominent debates in neuroscience and behavior going on today. As we are learning more and more about unconscious behaviors and attitudes, the notion of free will and personal choice, and especially the implications on the criminal justice system, are taking center stage. This is a great article to read if you are new to the topic or just want to see some current debate on the matter. Here are some of the highlights, although I highly recommend reading the entire article (it isn’t that long). Keep in mind that the author is in the camp of free will, and there are definitely more sides to the story.

Daniel Wegner: “It seems we are agents. It seems we cause what we do… It is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion.” 
Neuroscientist Patrick Haggard declared, “We certainly don’t have free will.  Not in the sense we think.”  
Neuroscientist Sam Harris claimed, “You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain.”
The sciences of the mind do give us good reasons to think that our minds are made of matter.  But to conclude that consciousness or free will is thereby an illusion is too quick.
These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and self-control are not magical abilities.  They need not belong to immaterial souls outside the realm of scientific understanding (indeed, since we don’t know how souls are supposed to work, souls would not help to explain these capacities).  Rather, these are the sorts of cognitive capacities that psychologists and neuroscientists are well positioned to study.
So, does neuroscience mean the death of free will?  Well, it could if it somehow demonstrated that conscious deliberation and rational self-control did not really exist or that they worked in a sheltered corner of the brain that has no influence on our actions.  But neither of these possibilities is likely.  True, the mind sciences will continue to show that consciousness does not work in just the ways we thought, and they already suggest significant limitations on the extent of our rationality, self-knowledge, and self-control.  Such discoveries suggest that most of us possess less free will than we tend to think, and they may inform debates about our degrees of responsibility.  But they do not show that free will is an illusion.

I actually do not agree with this guy. I do think that free will is an illusion for the most part. I am not ready to fully dismiss free will yet, but I do think it exists in a very limited capacity. 
Any thoughts on this matter?

Just thinking about this drives me a little crazy. 

approachingsignificance:

Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?

This is one of the most prominent debates in neuroscience and behavior going on today. As we are learning more and more about unconscious behaviors and attitudes, the notion of free will and personal choice, and especially the implications on the criminal justice system, are taking center stage. This is a great article to read if you are new to the topic or just want to see some current debate on the matter. Here are some of the highlights, although I highly recommend reading the entire article (it isn’t that long). Keep in mind that the author is in the camp of free will, and there are definitely more sides to the story.

Daniel Wegner: “It seems we are agents. It seems we cause what we do… It is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion.”

Neuroscientist Patrick Haggard declared, “We certainly don’t have free will.  Not in the sense we think.”  

Neuroscientist Sam Harris claimed, “You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain.”

The sciences of the mind do give us good reasons to think that our minds are made of matter.  But to conclude that consciousness or free will is thereby an illusion is too quick.

These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and self-control are not magical abilities.  They need not belong to immaterial souls outside the realm of scientific understanding (indeed, since we don’t know how souls are supposed to work, souls would not help to explain these capacities).  Rather, these are the sorts of cognitive capacities that psychologists and neuroscientists are well positioned to study.

So, does neuroscience mean the death of free will?  Well, it could if it somehow demonstrated that conscious deliberation and rational self-control did not really exist or that they worked in a sheltered corner of the brain that has no influence on our actions.  But neither of these possibilities is likely.  True, the mind sciences will continue to show that consciousness does not work in just the ways we thought, and they already suggest significant limitations on the extent of our rationality, self-knowledge, and self-control.  Such discoveries suggest that most of us possess less free will than we tend to think, and they may inform debates about our degrees of responsibility.  But they do not show that free will is an illusion.

I actually do not agree with this guy. I do think that free will is an illusion for the most part. I am not ready to fully dismiss free will yet, but I do think it exists in a very limited capacity. 

Any thoughts on this matter?

Just thinking about this drives me a little crazy. 

05

Nov

Brain-computer implant has passed 1000-day milestone - StumbleUpon

questionall:

A paralysed woman was still able to control a computer cursor with her thoughts 1000 days after having a tiny electronic device implanted in her brain, say researchers who devised the system. The achievement demonstrates the longevity of brain-machine implants.