Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Earlier last year, during a meeting with one of my advisors, I mentioned that the push to use cortical implants to control a cursor worried me a little. Sure the brain is plastic, and that plasticity combined with the inherent coding properties of motor cortex should result in decent control of a 2D cursor, but it was still 'unnatural'. The people involved in many tried of BCI devices are adults - well beyond the so called 'critical period' (a controversial term, I know). My guiding philosophy is that the interfaces of tomorrow will appeal more and more to the distinct advantages of our biology. That is, future human-computer interaction will become more and more organic and complementary to uniquely human traits. This is why the need to create more able-bodied types of interfaces, like prosthetic limbs, is much more important. technology sure isn't going to be a sitting target, and we need to anticipate the direction of its enhancement (no, I don't think a simple velocity filter will work here :) ).
So, what am I getting at. Last night, Microsoft announced "Surface". It is arguably the coolest thing I have seen in computer interfaces to this day (and remember I'm in the tech biz as well, so that should carry some weight!) One problem: Current cursor based navigation is nearly worthless. Sure, it won't replace the desktop PC anytime soon, but it is a sign of what is to come. Cursor navigation is extremely important, and a much easier target to hit than full limb control, don't get me wrong, but sometimes advances like Surface make me take a step back until the big picture is back in focus.
Enough pondering... Back to reading Fetz papers...
Involvement of the Basal Ganglia and Cerebellar Motor Pathways in the Preparation of Self-Initiated and Externally Triggered Movements in Humans
from Journal of Neuroscience current issue by Purzner, J., Paradiso, G. O., Cunic, D., Saint-Cyr, J. A., Hoque, T., Lozano, A. M., Lang, A. E., Moro, E., Hodaie, M., Mazzella, F., Chen, R.
Processing of Temporal Unpredictability in Human and Animal Amygdala
from Journal of Neuroscience current issue by Herry, C., Bach, D. R., Esposito, F., Di Salle, F., Perrig, W. J., Scheffler, K., Luthi, A., Seifritz, E.
Multisensory Integration Shortens Physiological Response Latencies
from Journal of Neuroscience current issue by Rowland, B. A., Quessy, S., Stanford, T. R., Stein, B. E.
Neurol Res. 2007 Jan;29(1):3-8
Authors: Wang J, Hier DB
Auditory feedback control for improvement of gait in patients with Multiple Sclerosis.
J Neurol Sci. 2007 Mar 15;254(1-2):90-4
Authors: Baram Y, Miller A
Cortical reorganization consistent with spike timing-but not correlation-dependent plasticity.
Publication Date: 2007 May 27 PMID: 17529985Authors: Young, J. M. - Waleszczyk, W. J. - Wang, C. - Calford, M. B. - Dreher, B. - Obermayer, K.Journal: Nat Neurosci
The mirror neuron system is more active during complementary compared with imitative action.
Publication Date: 2007 May 27 PMID: 17529986Authors: Newman-Norlund, R. D. - van Schie, H. T. - van Zuijlen, A. M. - Bekkering, H.Journal: Nat Neurosci
Developing velocity sensitivity in a model neuron by local synaptic plasticity
from Biological Cybernetics
Journal IssueVolume 96, Number 5 / May,
Effects of spinal recurrent inhibition on motoneuron short-term synchronization
from Biological Cybernetics
Journal IssueVolume 96, Number 6 / June, 2007
Timing-dependent modulation of associative plasticity by general network excitability in the human motor cortex.
J Neurosci. 2007 Apr 4;27(14):3807-12
Authors: Nitsche MA, Roth A, Kuo MF, Fischer AK, Liebetanz D, Lang N, Tergau F, Paulus W
A neural circuit model of flexible sensorimotor mapping: learning and forgetting on multiple timescales.
Neuron. 2007 Apr 19;54(2):319-33
Authors: Fusi S, Asaad WF, Miller EK, Wang XJ
Effects of small ischemic lesions in the primary motor cortex on neurophysiological organization in ventral premotor cortex.
J Neurophysiol. 2006 Dec;96(6):3506-11
Authors: Dancause N, Barbay S, Frost SB, Zoubina EV, Plautz EJ, Mahnken JD, Nudo RJ
Neurophysiological and anatomical plasticity in the adult sensorimotor cortex.
Rev Neurosci. 2006;17(6):561-80
Authors: Dancause N
Oh, I got more. They'll be posted later.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I predicted this when I got into podcasting for Digital Trends. When I started, the big craze was just little "about me" snippets. I said to myself, "Me, once people realize that they have their own life to live, and, really, other people's lives get as boring to you as your own, they will be looking for content." Sure enough, that's where it all went - topical conversations.
No matter how topic driven, and this goes for any media, part of the lure of a particular show is the personality. So, I'm still struggling with the tone of this blog. Do I go for a Gizmodoian light hearted, brief summary tone, or a Neurophilosopherian in depth exploration or topics? Personally, I like The Retrospectacle's tone, which is what I'm hoping to build myself up to. The perfect blend of personal and technical, IMO. Though, I tend to be more goofy, so that will hopefully shine through.
Welcome to my internal dialogue, I guess. I haven't actually tried to promote The Blog much, as I feel like I'm still working out the bugs. Why not just start throwing it out there and adjusting based on feedback? Easy. I'm a little fish in a big sea. There are many, many, many options, and people tend to go with first impressions when presented with that many options. So, I want things to be more finely polished and a decent archive going. I don't want to be that site where people say, "Hrm, that's interesting, but I'll wait until it has more substance before I actually start watching it."
My goal right now is to have this place ready for promotion before the first semester of the next academic year (so I won't be embarrassed when my undergrads refer people to it). I don't want them saying, "Go visit my TA's site. We feel sorry for him. i think he had some sort of major head trauma when he was a child."
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I might be spreading myself a little thin and getting into any brain-technology topics. But, Hell with it, I'll see if I can carry the load.
Hitachi is working on an optical topography unit, which detects local changes to cerebral blood flow. Kind of like an optical MRI. *ducks as MRI researcher throw rotten produce* Basically, the reflection and refraction of light shined through the scalp is altered by the change in need for oxygen and glucose of an active brain. It has to be cool - look at how old school this photo is!
Slashdot has a little forum banter on whether we are ready for technology augmentation at a social level. While slim on any tech content, I find exchanges like this useful for examining other people's reactions to current developments. I mean, I know how I feel about brain chips, etc - I think they're unquestionably awesome - but how do non-science, non-academia people across all age ranges feel? Don't be so smug! You'd be surprised by some of the responses!
University of Melbourne scientist Professor Graeme Clark has received the 2007 Klaus Joachim Zulch prize for his research into neuroscience and the Cochlear implant, giving hearing to deaf people.
I am posting at 3am right now, which means I could really use a device that would just put me to sleep with the press of the button. Hrm, where could I find one of those? Oh, here!
Three presentations on Saturday, May 5, 2007, by engineers from the Company and collaborators at Brown University highlighted advances in Cyberkinetics' BrainGate Neural Interface System included:
"Multi-State Decoding of Point-and-Click Control Signals from Motor Cortical Activity in a Human with tetraplegia." Authors include Sung-Phil Kim; John Simeral; Leigh Hochberg (VA/Harvard Medical School); John Donoghue; Gerhard Friehs; and Michael J. Black. All authors are affiliated with Brown University. This presentation described the development of "point and click" computer cursor control, which would be necessary to control medical and other devices, including wheelchairs; "Decoding Grasp Aperture from Motor-Cortical Population Activity." Authors include Panagiotis Artemiadis of the National Technical University of Athens; as well as Gregory Shakhnarovich; Carlos Vargas-Irwin; John Donoghue; and Michael J. Black, all of Brown University. This presentation described decoding neural activity to achieve "continuous motion", which would be important in the ability to provide more natural control of a person's own arm and hand movement, as well as prosthetic limbs; and "Automatic Spike Sorting for Real-Time Applications." Authors are Daniel Sebald, a consultant to Cyberkinetics, and Almut Branner, of Cyberkinetics. This presentation described automatic sorting of brain signals, which significantly reduces the time between a person's thought about movement and the ability to put the thought into action, which is aimed at providing "real-time" performance.
Interestingly, is basically forces subcortical structures to into a delta oscillation using TMS and you just fall asleep. There is a series of rhythm changes they refer to as Sleep on Command, and a beta oscillation mode to aid student in studying. My lord. I could be the Ultimate Grad Student! Imagine a grad student that never slept! PIs around the world begin drooling. From PR.com...
The device costs $500 and can be purchased directly from the company website (with a 1-year warranty). I think I might order one. *counting pennies* Actually, this is the gimmicky device version which you put under your mattress - so it doesn't penetrate your skull. And here I thought I had found a sleep on/off switch. *sigh*
The sequenced frequency system called Sleep on Command™ was first released to the public in May 2005 and provides clients with an extraordinary sleep experience. The Sleep on Command™ trademark was filed in early 2006. An Alert Mode (low Beta wave) program was added in 2006 to aid students in studying, and to aid drivers in maintaining alertness and reducing physical and mental fatigue on long trips. It works equally well in desk job
Monday, May 21, 2007
- skin designed that looks as good natural skin
- the arm weighs 9 lbs
- fits into the 50% range for female body frames (50% of females have arms this size - I assume the structure can be expanded for men)
- 14 degrees of freedom
- demoed with an exoskeleton control, ultimate goal is to provide haptic feedback as well.
I am particularly impressed by the fluidity of the movements, like when he begins to reach for the pad of paper.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Let's throw another monkey wrench into the whole setup. The best compromise would be to have experimental sessions in which alternative forms of communication are used - implants, EEG, etc. During 'normal business hours' patients are free to use whatever device they find most effective. Sounds great, huh? One word, and all the neuroscientists will cringe: plasticity. A) Is the new device being used long enough to induce long term changes in an optimal manner? That is, are they able to practice enough to really make the new device usable? B) Is the return to their 'comfortable device' washing out the effects of learning, or in some way altering it? This is particularly important as devices receive finer and finer signals. We'd expect less impact on EEG than individual action potentials. C) Is it better to use similar tasks, like spelling on an grid style keyboard, or radically different ones, like spelling versus drawing/tracing?
Anyhow, I'm sure someone can make a thesis out of that little bit, so you're welcome! This was sparked by a new artificial finger for amputees which is controlled by surrounding fingers, which provides 'life-like' articulation. He's a link to the MedGadget blog where more info, including videos can be found. Oh, and it's called the XFinger, because it is obviously 'X-treme'!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
To BCIers, this is good news. Imagine being able to target specific cells to grow to specific electrodes in an array. It opens many of the options used by Dr. Phil Kennedy up to a level of extremely high precision, as regenerative/reorganizing processing can be harnessed to create the most efficient connections. Make the brain play by our rules, I say!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Call me skeptical, but a single high impedance surface electrode ain't gonna tell you too much. Now, using the EMG signal isn't too bad of an idea if it still gives you some idea of the facial expression, but I doubt the product would have the same allure.
MatLab in crunching away and stealing application focus on monitor 2...
I've had 4 shots of espresso in the last hour...
SfN abstracts are due in less than 36 hours...
... and I decide to start a blog. Sure, what's one more commitment?
Welcome to my neuroscience and Brain Computer Interface (BCI)/Brain Machine Interface (BMI)/Neuroprosthetics/Rehabilitative Neural Engineering/Doo-Dads In your Brain blog. Over the past couple months I've been gathering new information in the BCI field on an almost daily basis, and thought this might a) help me organize that information and b) provide others with some entertainment plus a venue to discuss ideas related to BCI.
Don't let my informal language deter you. I assure you, I am as sharp as a bowling ball. This is my generally preferred whimsical tone, and if you crave the stuffy ultra-precision of a 24/7 nose to the grindstone scientist, well, I won't be offended if you trek off mid-article to bask in the cold dehumanizing comfort of the Neural Computation journal. Not all the posts will be this informal, but be aware that some will.
Feel free to check out my bio, as soon as I figure out where that is myself (I've had a GMail account for all of 10 minutes now). The basics? I am a second year grad student in the lab of John Donoghue at Brown University, involved in the analysis of human neural implant data as part of the CyberKinetics BrainGate clinical trials. Yes, I am a graduate student, but as JD says, I'm one of those types that has lived several lives before returning to grad school. I am also the Senior Editor of the Digital Trends website, where I do product reviews, articles, and host the site's podcast. The folks there have stuck with me through some crazy times, and have absolutely earned my trust. They're good people. Before my time at Brown, I was a pharma rep, and before that a research neurophysiologist/programmer for Phil Kennedy, one of the pioneers of the invasive BCI field. I graduated from Emory University, with a double BS in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) and Computer Science (minored in Philosophy).
This blog is intended to be focused on BCI, but there is a good chance I will delve into other topics related to neuroscience. As I said, there is a selfish motivation in creating this site, and one extension of that is the idea that it gives me a reason to pull together information, organize my thoughts, and express them in a (hopefully) clear manner.
With any public discussion of science and lab work there is a balance I am going to have to keep between disclosure and protection of my work. While there is very little chance I will be 'scooped' - the number of labs analyzing neural data from human implant subjects can be counted on one hand - I have to protect my projects and those of my fellow lab mates (and CyberKinetics, Inc, and the identities of patients). So let me say this now: The views expressed here are solely mine. They are not the views of CyberKinetics, Inc, Brown University, Neuroscience Graduate Program, The Donoghue Lab, John Donoghue/Michael Black/Jerome Sanes/Leigh Hochberg/etc. There will be no discussion of this material. Got it? Legal repercussions due to my caffeine infused, ADHD-esque, scatterbrained, sleep-deprived decisions are unacceptable! The decisions themselves, though, are delicious.
I will possibly be hosting a sister blog via Digital Trends on purely technology related topics. When that goes live, I'll announce it here as well. I have to budget my time wisely, with my primary obligation to the lab/grant, but I work best when I am distracted. it sounds counter-intuitive, but my attention fades quickly, and if I don't have a related 'distractor', I tend to drift away into unrelated work.