Sunday, September 30, 2007

And one more note

Back in the States. My train from Boston to Providence broke down at 12:30am, and I had to get a cab, which meant I got in at around 3am. Ugh.

Updates coming late tomorrow. Pictures from Neurobotics all made it to my PC without issue, but now I need to do some touching up and processing. 8GB worth of pics! I'll post a link to my Flickr account when things are up for display.

And one last thing. I've noticed a pretty big spike in traffic this week. I don't know if it is from Neurobotics members or the Biomechanics class I spoke to at Campus Biomedico in Rome, but I thought I would repeat the site's philosophy/tone. The purpose of this site is primarily to keep track of current events, research reports, and general coverage of BCIs (Brain Computer Interfaces) in the media (scientific and popular). The tone is on the lighthearted side generally (ala Gizmodo, though more tame), and intended to be a a decent "radar" for BCI outside the walls of a general lab setting. Some of it is very topical, some very technical, but there is an even balance (hopefully) of off-topic and general/no-science-background-needed material. Right now it is just me running the show, but I have a feeling that I will soon be adding a few other contributors. If you have any suggestions/questions/concerns, feel free to email me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Music and mayhem

One last quickie.

Oliver Sacks has a new book out, Musicophillia: Tales of Music and the Brain. I loved some of his past books, which my psych prof turned me on to during my freshman year. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The Island of the Color Blind, An Anthropologist on Mars, and he has a few more. For anyone that wants to see just how strange the brain/mind can be, definitely pick up the first book I mentioned. Nice short stories about patients he saw as a neurologist, and not too science heavy.

And what do strange minds do? Duh? They sue Steve Jobs and OJ Simpson for aiming missiles at their brains. What else would they do? (Here are the actual papers filed. I shit you not.)

Quick Note

I will post Neurobotics pics and a wrap up/review when I get back to The States. I need my desktop PC to deal with the photos. Super Paper Friday may be merged tomorrow with last week's


Shadows of Phineas

Metal chair through the face? No thanks. I said no thanks! No... Ahhhh!

Who does this remind me of....? Hmmm....

(Answer: Phineas Gage)
Was thinking about filing this under "feedback".

I got your robots riiight heeeere!

At Robodock 2007. I don't think it looks too amazing, but worth checking out this fusion of art and robotics. Artbotics? Pics, video link.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A few links to tide you over

Since my schedule is so completely off, here's a dump of some of the things that hit my radar recently...

Researchers at some oddball university named "Brown" (seriously, who names a university after a color), have been showing off a haptic device used for artistic expression - some sort of hybrid visual and movement art thing. Anyhow, see what the techno-hippies are up to here. Also on Slashdot, under the clever title of "Happiness is a Warm Electrode".

DBS for depression, and mentioned in earlier posts, is featured in the September issue of Popular Science. Interestingly, they target the subgenual cingulate region, which I know has been implicated int he disorder, but I didn't know to such a large extent. Perhaps this area is the linchpin for untreatable depression (versus that controllable through medication). @ Neurophilosphery.

You like the haptics? Oh, yes, you LOVE the haptics! Anyhow, Ishikawa-Namiki Komuro's Laboratory is working on a fancy vibro-tactile suit for the blind. You can imagine how that works - optic sensors that transduce various object features and locations to several vibrating nodes on a suit. Still worth mentioning.

Another accumulation of online learning resources is up in wiki form at Librarian Chick. Learnin's is gooder than not noing. That's mi moto!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Coming soon...

Neurobotics wrap up, pictures, and Super Paper -insert whatever day it is posted-.

In the meantime, why not pick up a Flying Monkey with Slingshot and Screaming Sound!?!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Last Day in Volterra

Of course I didn't bring my cable to upload pics, but hopefully I'll find on in Rome. I apparently caught a nasty little cold on the plane over, and it is just starting to die down.

To my fellow students, it was a blast. Feel free to email or Skype anytime, and if you make it to The States, let me know!
(Skype will complain that my version doesn't support text chat, but it does. My home phone has Skype built in and cannot use chat, but my computer can.)

To the profs reading this... why the Hell are you reading a blog? Get your grad students to read it, and summarize the contents at lab meeting.

As a side note, Super Paper Friday will be slightly postponed until later. I will try to get it up after I arrive in Rome, but traveling always exhausts me.

And to all my bellissimas - Ciao bella! (There is a classic picture with Silke that I will post when I get my hands on it.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A moment

So I finally grabbed a moment to post. Things here are packed from 8am-11pm every day, but it isn't a high stress situation, which is good. Lots of interesting folks, good speakers, great food and wine (okay, tonight I will know more about the wine, but last night's was decent), and a beautifully scenic country location. I will have to post some pics later.

As I said the other attendees are really all around nice folks, and even after the slight culture shock when I got off the plane, things have been pretty smooth. I didn't really prepare myself well for the trip in general, since I had so much work due right before I left, and walking around the busy airport in a foreign country can be a little overwhelming. But, I think I got the hang of it.

One thing that is somewhat strange is that I feel thrust into the middle of some quiet wars between different philosophies and techniques. Everyone wants to say that their system/algorithm/sensor/whatever is the best, and not insult others, so there are small smirks and whispers here and there between cohorts and the air of punches being pulled for the sake of civility. I don't know if that is for the best or not, or if things will slowly devolve as the week goes on, but people need to be, perhaps, a little less worried about one upping each other. I know I said some things because I felt I was a representative of the lab, and the discussion between the speakers was basically circling around things I already knew. In other words, questions were being asked that no one else seemed to know the answers to, and rather than speculate without all the data, get some other opinions first.

There was also one thing I really want to rail against, but will hold it until later. It was just, well, crap, and I felt bad for some of the students.

I'm excited about Rome now, and want to again thank Giovanni for hosting me. I'm sure we'll have a great time next week!

Neurobotics Day l

I made it in one piece to Italy. 3 days, 3 hours sleep.

Everyone here is awesome. Oops. Back to lecture!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Site note

As expected things will be kinda haphazard with my travel and everything. Fee frre to post questions, comments, and whatnot for previous posts!

Friday, September 14, 2007

And "Just Alerting You"



It's finally sinking in that I'll be in Italy in two days. See some of you folks at the Neurobotics Workshop! I will be in Rome the week after in case anyone wants to grab a drink.

Super Paper Friday Hooray!

Here you go!

The muscle activation method: an approach to impedance control of brain-machine interfaces through a musculoskeletal model of the arm.
Kim HK, Carmena JM, Biggs SJ, Hanson TL, Nicolelis MA, Srinivasan MA.
IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2007 Aug;54(8):1520-9.

Neurometabolic coupling in cerebral cortex reflects synaptic more than spiking activity.
Viswanathan A, Freeman RD.
Nat Neurosci. 2007 Sep 9; [Epub ahead of print]

Reestablishment of damaged adult motor pathways by grafted embryonic cortical neurons.
Gaillard A, Prestoz L, Dumartin B, Cantereau A, Morel F, Roger M, Jaber M.
Nat Neurosci. 2007 Sep 2; [Epub ahead of print]

COUP-TFI regulates the balance of cortical patterning between frontal/motor and sensory areas.
Armentano M, Chou SJ, Srubek Tomassy G, Leingärtner A, O'leary DD, Studer M.
Nat Neurosci. 2007 Sep 9; [Epub ahead of print]

Toward enhanced P300 speller performance.
Krusienski DJ, Sellers EW, McFarland DJ, Vaughan TM, Wolpaw JR.
J Neurosci Methods. 2007 Aug 1; [Epub ahead of print]

Muscular thin films for building actuators and powering devices.
Feinberg AW, Feigel A, Shevkoplyas SS, Sheehy S, Whitesides GM, Parker KK.
Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1366-70.

Motor Force Field Learning Influences Visual Processing of Target Motion
Liana E. Brown, Elizabeth T. Wilson, Melvyn A. Goodale, and Paul L. Gribble
The Journal of Neuroscience, September 12, 2007, 27(37):9975-9983

And some good general papers...

Nonhuman primate event-related potentials indexing covert shifts of attention.
Woodman GF, Kang MS, Rossi AF, Schall JD.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Sep 11; [Epub ahead of print]

Orbitofrontal Cortex Encodes Willingness to Pay in Everyday Economic Transactions
Hilke Plassmann, John O'Doherty, and Antonio Rangel
The Journal of Neuroscience, September 12, 2007, 27(37):9984-9988

Forward and reverse hippocampal place-cell sequences during ripples.
Diba K, Buzsáki G.
Nat Neurosci. 2007 Sep 2; [Epub ahead of print]

Evolution in the social brain.
Dunbar RI, Shultz S.
Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1344-7.

Humans have evolved specialized skills of social cognition: the cultural intelligence hypothesis.
Herrmann E, Call J, Hernàndez-Lloreda MV, Hare B, Tomasello M.
Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1360-6.Click here to read Links

The perception of rational, goal-directed action in nonhuman primates.
Wood JN, Glynn DD, Phillips BC, Hauser MD.
Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1402-5.

Color contrast processing in human striate cortex.
Kentridge RW, Heywood CA, Weiskrantz L.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Sep 6; [Epub ahead of print]

Electrical signals propagate unbiased in cortex.
Gilja V, Moore T.
Neuron. 2007 Sep 6;55(5):684-6.

Temporal precision in the neural code and the timescales of natural vision.
Butts DA, Weng C, Jin J, Yeh CI, Lesica NA, Alonso JM, Stanley GB.
Nature. 2007 Sep 6;449(7158):92-5.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


(That would be Radio Frequency ID To Be Announced Dead On Arrival for those of you acronymically challenged.)

The past week there has been a spat over the safety of RFID chip implants related to cancer. The debate typifies the current scientific and political climate, and I just thought I would give VeriChip the opportunity to respond before posting more.

It began last week with several reports that VeriChip's RFID implants have been linked to increased cases of cancer in rats. These implants are currently being tested in people with Alzheimer's as a way of digitally tagging them with vital information relevant to their treatment. As any former retirement home worker (like my sister, now a lawyer) would tell you, Alzheimer's patients tend to go a little bonkers at times and try to escape or run around naked (without their medical tag wristbands).

The interesting part, pointed out by Ammar, a member of the lab, and noted in a Wired report, is the link to Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson. Ammar wrote:

Implanted RFID chips made the news again this morning. The associated press is reporting links with cancer (old news). This hits the news as Tommy Thompson announced that he is running for president. Thompson had approved the device when he was secretary of health and human services. Tommy Thompson joined the board of VeriChip five month after he left DHHS.

Anyway the article has very good bibliography about implanted RFID and might be interesting to read for the development of future wireless brain implants.

Techdirt has an interesting write up on the ins and outs of the turbulent approval process, and is definitely worth a read.

The latest response from VeriChip is chilling. As a former pharma drone, simply restating that you passed FDA requirements is the equivalent of saying, "Crap. We're screwed. Let's give the lawyers more time to build a case, and us more time to sell off stock before the 'Big One' hits." If you get approval from an organization, and said organization is suspected of being corrupted (especially when it comes to YOUR COMPANY in particular), then restating that that corrupt organization approved you means NOTHING.

via many sources including the above, plus Gizmodo, Slashdot, and MedGadget.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Learn me a book

From Dumb Little Man, a huge list of 236 Open Courseware links. We can now say definitively that being stupid is a choice.


Someone tell me how I should feel about this one? Sad, sympathetic, disgusted, confused, inspired, confused... I'm thinking confused.

From MetaFilter

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stimulating Delgado video

Today began the undergraduate seminar on Neurotechnology here at Brown, with Donoghue at the helm. Looks like it will be fun to sit in on and help out with. Here's one of the video clips shown. I had found a better one before, but can't seem to dig it up now.

Of course the comments and title are waaaay over the top, but that conspiracy theory aspect makes things more fun. Don't believe me? Read through this bonkers site (it is old, and most of the links are long since dead)!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


The abstract search whirley gig thingy is up for SfN, which means public disclosure, which means I can post info.

In case you're interested, two posters from our lab have been chosen for the SfN Press Book:
- (517.4/UU20) Directional tuning in motor cortex of a person with ALS (Simeral, Kim, ...)
- (517.15/VV1) Motor cortex local field potentials and multi-unit activity during intended movements in humans with tetraplegia (King, Truccolo, ...)

The lab has several great posters on display, so do a search for 'Donoghue' or 'Hochberg' for more. I'll post a list later with all the kids' posters linked.

Here's mine and Wilson's:
Motor cortex local field potentials and multi-unit activity during intended movements in humans with tetraplegia
San Diego Convention Center: Halls B-H
Presentation Start/End Time:
Monday, Nov 05, 2007, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
1Dept. of Neurosci., 2Dept. of Clin. Neurosciences, Brown Univ., Providence, RI; 3Dept. of Neurosurgery, Rhode Island Hosp., Providence, RI; 4Dept. of Physical Med. and Rehabil., Spaulding Rehabil. Hospital, Harvard Med. Sch., Boston, MA; 5Rehabil. Res. and Develop. Service, Dept. of Veterans Affairs Med. Ctr., Providence, RI; 6Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., Foxborough, MA; 7Dept. of Neurology, Massachusetts Gen. Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Spaulding Rehabil. Hospital, Harvard Med. Sch., Boston, MA
We examined the relationships between motor cortex (MI) local field potentials (LFP) and multiunit activity (MUA) and intended movement in two humans with tetraplegia due to spinal cord transection (participant S1) or pontine stroke (S3). As part of a pilot clinical trial of the BrainGate Neural Interface System (IDE), a microelectrode array was chronically implanted in the dominant MI arm (knob) area in each participant. We investigated LFP and MUA activities offline in two main tasks: imagined pursuit tracking of a cursor moving on a computer monitor, and a 4 or 8-direction ‘neural cursor’ center-out step tracking task in which the cursor position was driven by the participant’s motor intention, decoded from MI spiking activity via a neural interface system. Recorded intra-cortical LFPs during the center-out task had features similar to those previously observed during reaching movements in monkeys. Typical attenuation of beta-oscillation (~20 Hz) and ‘motor’ event related potentials (ERPs) appeared 200-500ms after the instruction to move to the target. ERPs were statistically different (p<0.05)>
B. King, None; W. Truccolo, None; G.M. Friehs, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., B. Research Grant (principal investigator, collaborator or consultant and pending grants as well as grants already received); Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., E. Ownership Interest (stock, stock options, patent or other intellectual property); Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., F. Consultant/Advisory Board; J. Stein, None; J.P. Donoghue, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., E. Ownership Interest (stock, stock options, patent or other intellectual property); Chief Scientific Officer: Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., Other; L.R. Hochberg, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., B. Research Grant (principal investigator, collaborator or consultant and pending grants as well as grants already received).
Office of Research and Development, Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Dept. of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, RI

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Neural Prosthesis Program, NINDS Grant NS25074

Office of Naval Research (award N00014-06-1-0185)

Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc.

Site note

Just FYI, updates will be erratic this week, leading up to the Neurobotics program. SfN poster + analysis, Rome presentation, prelim, analysis (boatloads), etc etc etc.

In the meantime, here's Brian Brain. Why? No idea. But I can't just post a site note without some incentive to keep reading! Actually, it is pretty cool:
The robotic brain includes the following features packed into its colour changing matter:

A complete edition of The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, an English dictionary and a world history timeline. Further, Brian will respond to verbal prompts, initiate conversations and build a profile of the user from their responses. An onboard database can store telephone numbers; the bot can then be hooked up to a phone line to act as a telephone. Dialing by voice command or by direct input via the keyboard is possible and inbuilt speakers act as the sound output device during a call. The same speakers can also be used to playback your tunes, by connecting your MP3 player. The robot stands a fairly large 13.75"x11.75"x10" and is powered by three AAA batteries. The do-it-all device will ship on 21/09/07 and will retail at $119.95.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Super Paper Friday

A biologically inspired neural network controller for ballistic arm movements.
Bernabucci I, Conforto S, Capozza M, Accornero N, Schmid M, D'Alessio T.
J Neuroengineering Rehabil. 2007 Sep 3;4(1):33 [Epub ahead of print]

State Changes Rapidly Modulate Cortical Neuronal Responsiveness
Andrea Hasenstaub, Robert N. S. Sachdev, and David A. McCormick
The Journal of Neuroscience, September 5, 2007, 27(36):9607-9622.

Cortical activation during motor imagery is reduced in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Stanton BR, Williams VC, Leigh PN, Williams SC, Blain CR, Giampietro VP, Simmons A.
Brain Res. 2007 Aug 3; [Epub ahead of print]Click here to read Links

Morphological changes in dendritic spines of Purkinje cells associated with motor learning.
Kea , Joon , Arii T, Imoto K, Im
Neurobiol Learn Mem (24 August 2007)

Localization of a stable neural correlate of associative memory.
Reijmers LG, Perkins BL, Matsuo N, Mayford M.
Science. 2007 Aug 31;317(5842):1230-3.

When the brain plays music: auditory-motor interactions in music perception and production.
Zatorre RJ, Chen JL, Penhune VB.
Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Jul;8(7):547-58.

Practice and perfect: length of training and structural brain changes in experienced typists.
Cannonieri GC, Bonilha L, Fernandes PT, Cendes F, Li LM.
Neuroreport. 2007 Jul 2;18(10):1063-6.

Couple Quickies

I have it on good authority (Time article) that Terri Schaivo had a DBS system implanted in a final attempt to get coherent responses from her.

Neurobot brought to my attention that PDP++ has been revived under the name Emergent Neural Network Simulator.

Some people collect coins, other...

And making the rounds on some of the social aggregator sites is this clip from, I think, the Schwartz lab. Old, but nice to see. As with any YouTube clip, don't read the comments or you will become dumber.

Learning biology? This video is quickly becoming a classic (see if you can name the organelles and processes occurring in each scene). Another nice site JD pointed out is Anatomy Travelogue.


My friend Natalia pointed this out in the comments, but it is too good to not not post on the front page...

You'd surprised how many people think this is true.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Human no. 43234522 reporting

Good news for all you cats hoping to get some type of technological implant. VeriChip's VeriMed trials have begun, with 200 Alzheimer's patients having implanted with RFID chips.
And you thought every person on the planet would be barcoded. Silly luddite. (By the age of 80, you have a better than 50% chance of having Alzheimer's.)

vis Engadget


For those of you lacking in the basics of EEG, there's a nice summary over at Brain in a Vat. EEG is the darling technology (along with EOG and EMG) of non-invasive BCIs and those trendy video game controller junkers. Of course, you're getting the activity of millions of cells, so you get what might be called a computational "schmear" of intention. Check it out! (This is actually their "Method of the Month". And I thought Super Paper Friday was a dorky name.)