Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mendeley and Site Feed

Two quick notes.

First, Mendeley is friggin awesome. If you are a paper hoarder like me, or just need a better way to organize massive numbers of research documents, this is a great program. Added in the latest update: renaming files. Oh sweet jebus. I was actually going to request this feature the other day and got distracted.

On the opposite side of things, my nemesis, EndNote, has added the ability to download pdfs directly within the program. Good form, old chap. EndNote still has alot of features you can't find anywhere else (implemented in the most inelegant ways possible), and Mendeley is the perfect compliment for when you actually want to USE your references. So, do your searching and downloading within EndNote, and then throw it all into Mendeley for reference.

The second note is that reader Bruce brought to my attention the junky RSS feed via Feedburner. I had originally used the summary feed option to truncate the Super Paper Friday lists, but, eh, you kids can deal with a little extra feed girth. So, the feed should be all locked, cocked, and ready to rock(ed).

The feed (no need to resubscribe)
The NEW SPIFFY NEWS FEED! (Caps attack!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I know it's true, but seeing it in graph form just drives it home...

Monday, October 20, 2008

A somber item and reminder


I know we usually cover lighter topics and that the presentation at DNI is often on the more flippant side, but I think it is important to occasionally reassess the real, serious implications that come with any medical research. So, in the spirit of reminding everyone of one of the many reasons we do this work, I thought I would point out a couple video clips on CNN regarding a 23 year old man who, after becoming paralyzed during rugby practice, opted for suicide.

There are a number of topics to think about when considering stories like this one. While working for Phil Kennedy, the producers of Chicago Hope consulted him on BCI technology for locked-in patients. In the episode, after successfully restoring communication, the patient just said that they wanted to die.

To some extent, I like to think that just having the prospect of technologies like neural interfaces gives some hope to those that could benefit from the them. In fact, part of the reason that DNI is so light hearted is that I know prospective users will stumble on this site, and rather than ramble on about technical minutia and incremental developments, a little silliness and discussion of broader topics should (hopefully) break up the monotony of wading through numbers, error bars, and scientifically inept mass media reports.

If you keep up with the neuro shared items feed, I think one message regarding the field should be clear: Hang in there. We're on it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Papers! Super! Friday!

“A voxel-by-voxel parametric fMRI study of motor me...[Exp Brain Res. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Achieving "organic compositionality" through self-...[Neural Netw. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Activity in the Medial Temporal Lobe Predicts Memory Strength, Whereas Activity in the Prefrontal Cortex Predicts Recollection -- Kirwan et al. 28 (42): 10541 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Bioethics. Students learn how, not what, to think ...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Brain-computer interfaces in neurological rehabili...[Lancet Neurol. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Can the spinal cord learn and remember? [ScientificWorldJournal. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Cerebellum Predicts the Future Motor State. [Cerebellum. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Composition and decomposition in bimanual dynamic ...[J Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Corollary discharge circuits in the primate brain. [Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Correlations between Groups of Premotor Neurons Carry Information about Prehension -- Stark et al. 28 (42): 10618 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Direct control of paralysed muscles by cortical ne...[Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“EEG-based motor imagery analysis using weighted wa...[J Neurosci Methods. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Embodied models of delayed neural responses: spati...[Neural Netw. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Encoding By Response Duration in the Basal Ganglia. [J Neurophysiol. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Entrained rhythmic activities of neuronal ensemble...[Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Forward frontal fields: phylogeny and fundamental ...[Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Functional role of the supplementary and pre-suppl...[Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Further reflections on how we interpret the action...[Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Galileo Galilei's vision of the senses. [Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Genetic basis of human brain evolution. [Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Guarding the gateway to cortex with attention in v...[Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“How do we know what we are doing? Time, intention ...[Conscious Cogn. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Interpersonal Sensitivity: Entering Others’ Worlds: A Special Issue of Social Neuroscience.”

“Lacking control increases illusory pattern percept...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Laminar cortical dynamics of cognitive and motor w...[Psychol Rev. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Learning novel mappings from optic flow to the con...[J Vis. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Memory reconsolidation mediates the strengthening ...[Nat Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Multiple Bases of Human Intelligence Revealed by Cortical Thickness and Neural Activation -- Choi et al. 28 (41): 10323 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Multi-University Research Teams: Shifting Impact, ...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Neural Correlates of Predictive and Postdictive Switching Mechanisms for Internal Models -- Imamizu and Kawato 28 (42): 10751 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Neurophysiology and neuroanatomy of reflexive and ...[Brain Cogn. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Observation-based learning for brain-machine inter...[Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation of ...[Neuroscience. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Perception abstract.”

“Robotics and neuroscience: a rhythmic interaction. [Neural Netw. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“ScienceDirect - Brain and Cognition : Sleep-related improvements in motor learning following mental practice.”

“ScienceDirect - Cognition : Hierarchically organized behavior and its neural foundations: A reinforcement learning perspective.”

“Shared internal models for feedforward and feedbac...[J Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Spinal Cord - Abstract of article: Who wants to walk? Preferences for recovery after SCI: a longitudinal and cross-sectional study.”

“Stimulus Similarity-Contingent Neural Adaptation Can Be Time and Cortical Area Dependent -- Verhoef et al. 28 (42): 10631 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Temporal spike pattern learning. [Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“The Berlin Brain--Computer Interface: accurate per...[IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“The influence of feedback valence in associative l...[Neuroimage. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“The Statistics of Repeating Patterns of Cortical Activity Can Be Reproduced by a Model Network of Stochastic Binary Neurons -- Roxin et al. 28 (42): 10734 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

“Transformation of a virtual action plan into a mot...[J Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result.”

“Transformation of a Virtual Action Plan into a Motor Plan in the Premotor Cortex -- Nakayama et al. 28 (41): 10287 -- Journal of Neuroscience.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rockin tidbits

First, as I type, I'm watching the premier episode of Prototype This, and I gotta say I really like it so far. Check it out on Discovery Channel. As a bonus, the first episode features the Emotiv EEG BCI system. The task is to design a car that is driven by biofeedback (they started with the idea of shutting off a car in response to road rage, but it seems to be drifting towards the more fun idea of controlling the car's navigation). They also visit BioPac - which makes a number of biofeedback-related systems and sensors. Perhaps they should get one of these to add to the fun (sample video below).

The most important thing about this episode is that it highlights a concept that everyday people don't think about much, namely that any controllable signal can be translated into a computer input, and thus tied to anything a computer can control. This is a great concept to drive home for BCI enthusiasts and general hacker types. It also hits the real life issues introduced by using niche/'vertical market' devices. We know those problems all too well (and by we, I mean JDS, or as we call him "The BrainGate").

And a plane, which is the awesome-er-est:

Next, just a reminder that there are two available sites for news stories which are constantly updated .

For neuro/bci items:

For tech items:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Required reading

Hitting several sites today is a new Fetz lab study where cortical recordings were used to directly drive paralyzed muscles in a monkey. More coming on the story later, but this will be one of those classic papers in the field.

Mentioned here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As a side note, we did something similar when I was working with Phil Kennedy. We hooked up a surface electrode to a patient's arm and used to the recorded signals to drive the stimulator. It was a very brief proof of concept type experiment, but worth noting in light of this study.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Brief note

I hadn't looked back at some of the old posts and just realized today:
a) I really need to actually read the posts before posting them. Usually they are off the cuff and done while I am otherwise occupied, but some of the mistakes are, um, yeah...
b) Somehow I turned off comment notifications, so I didn't know there were people talking about posts. Whoopsy! Fixed.

Oh, and holy crap! I threw a folder of papers at Mendeley and it pulled all the citation info automatically. Wow. Impressive! Actually, majorly impressive. I think this might be 'The App'.

Googling with your RSS

Google will be adding rss feeds for custom searches, according to some insider types. This has the potential to be really, really useful, especially if they roll Google Scholar into the mix. I like to use GS as an adjunct to PubMed searches, due to the completely different way that Google figures out the connections between papers.

Other nice uses include watching your favorite sites for changes, regardless of whether they support rss, keeping track of news items on the most popular news sites by narrowing the date, tracking prices for new toys on Product Search, and probably many other uses I can't think of right now. The ability to create feeds from searches has been part of Microsoft and Yahoo's search engines, but it will be interesting to see how Google integrates it into the Googleverse. More importantly, these types of repeated sources of information inspire you to actually craft a good search, so even if you don't use it in the long term, you're likely to find something new and interesting while you set it up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

iTunes to manage papers?

I vaguely remember seeing something in the news about a lab or school that was using iTunes to organize scientific papers. Well, while sitting through a 'digital resources' seminar, and chiming in to help the library staff help students, that little pathway lit up in my head. I decided to try it, just to check it out.

It does work - you can organize you papers relatively well in iTunes, if you want to manually add the info yourself. That's how it stands as of now, but if you want to be creative, it should be possible to export your bibliographic info to a text file, write a quick script to convert the fields to a playlist (an xml lib file would probably retain all the info), and then import that 'library' into iTunes.

Why would you want to do this? Well, the obvious thing that jumps out at me is smart playlists. Create a smart playlist that uses specific key words or authors, and anytime a pdf is added that meets those criteria, the playlist is automatically updated to include it.

Just throwing it out there. Pic for proof of concept below...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The upcoming rise of Linux

What a sweet looking little interface on the upcoming BenQ MID.

No, I am not a Linux user, and especially not a fanboy/fanboi, but from an interface design perspective, Linux is poised to become the clear winner of the alternative interface wars. The reasons are simple.

A) No corporate identity. If a Linus distro wants a certain branding-type identity, someone just branches the distribution and codes away. The roots of this 'feature' are in the design of X Windows and the various window managers, like KDE and Gnome, and the philosophy that the interface is an extension of the underlying commands in the system. Don't like that Apple menu bar at the top? Sick of a certain Start button? Too bad. Millions have been spent on figuring out how big to make the menu fonts, the order of each item, etc., and with widespread adoption of Windows and MacOS in their iconic interface form, probably 100x's as much money is spent on making sure version X.5 looks and operates similar enough to version X that people won't be calling tech support and businesses don't need to retrain employees - a huge time/money sink, and one that is almost never budgeted.

B) The unstoppable march of the digital device swarm. While the popular WMs are still 'meh' in many respects, they have also been competing with highly organized, profit driven companies with millions of dollars spent on consumer research. People generally don't go to Linux because it is particularly easy to use of good looking, but now that companies are starting to put dollars behind Linux interface design (due to it widely being recognized as the Achilles' heel of Linux) the money factor is about to change. Netbook, MID, smartphone, and specialty computer makers are realizing that they don't need all the library overhead and background processes used in a modern desktop OS on devices meant for stereotyped tasks. The result? Better battery life (fewer computations, simpler computations incorporated into low level, modern instruction sets, less disk access), faster performance, and fewer errors/crashes/conflicts.

C) Multimedia barrage. I remember downloading MP3s back in 1997, while at college. You better believe that once I found a patch cable long enough to reach my stereo, my room was THE party room in the dorm. Pissed off that smug bastard with the 100-disc CD changer, too! But, seriously, if there is one positive outcome from the RIAA and MPAA* suing instead of innovating, it is that media formats have remained mostly the same. Good thing they spent years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to find out people want to play the music they buy on any device they choose (give Apple time - they'll pack it up soon enough), because the encoding and decoding to the few popular codecs used now can now be done in hardware. Before this stagnation, it made less sense for, say, NVidia to put mpeg decoding in hardware, or at least to repeatedly refine the ability in order to consume less power and operate with better stability. Same goes for software. Coders have been given the time to optimize, understand, and tweak media decoding. Sure there are a couple dozen different codecs floating around, but that could have been much worse**. Let's not forget that the whole open source software movement was also figuring out how to work out collaborations among many programmers in sparse locations at the same time. The result is that we now have cell phones running full motion video, etc. On the Linux side, this has translated into valuable time to support modern media formats (attract media type programmers to a decidedly computer-y OS, work out revisioning logistics, create a legal base/consciousness within the community). Without the benefit of corporate talks/alliances/contracts, OSS needed to implement media-centric features in a stable and reliable fashion. That has been largely accomplished.

* - To their credit, the MPAA has been MUCH more reasonable on this front, which is why I still go to movies and pay for rentals, but have not purchased a new CD or a paid music download in at least the last 6 years. I've contributed to artists through secondary means, like concerts, buying games they have tracks on, and snatching up any DVD-Audio they might possibly release.
** - Innovation on the media front has been largely squashed by acceptance from IP holders, once they figured out people were copying content for free. Any new attempt to make a better codec would run the risk of be legally hammered into oblivion if it gained a sizable user base, mired by copy protection at the insistence of IP holders, or developed far enough for the owners to sell it off, get their money, and run. The legacy codecs we use are there only because corporations acted so remarkably slowly and then started a legal shit-storm for anyone associated. When was the last time you saw someone distributing a product for free to millions of people, customized to their exact tastes and with immediate access, and it took the IP holders years to even recognize its existence?

D) Dr. Halo or How I stopped worrying about my child's social life and learned to love the video game. And, thank video games for unstoppable march of realism and complexity in 3D environments. Unlike video, which has several targets (movie, transmission, streaming, local playback, etc.), video games have had relatively few, making hardware the limiting factor. We can argue about changing 3D standards helping this, but the mantra of "if you're not maxing out the hardware, you're not taking full advantage of it" has egged developers on. Video games also pioneered the HUD, menu system, navigation nuances, and many foggy cognitive features of human-computer interaction that we probably won't even scratch the surface of over the next 50 years. While 3D support for Linux is still largely dependant on how nice the hardware folks was to be about releasing source code (which varies greatly), basic 3D operations have been removed from proprietary APIs and placed in lower level, quasi-auto-detected interactions of hardware and software (instruction sets), optimized at the library level, and generally more 'universalized'. So, while specular mapping from 8x anisotropic filtered internal reflections on bump mapped surface of a volumetricly rendered light source might not be in the cards right now, fade rectangle and rotate isn't a big deal, and that's all you need to a neat-o menu effect.

E) A new breed of 'digital ready' people. 97% of school children play video games. 1% of incoming freshmen at colleges have land lines, while 99% have cell phones. 17% of US homes overall (including mine) have only a cell phone. How many high school students do you think have ever seen a hand-cranked window in a car? And for the parents, remember when YOU discovered Playboy/Playgirl? Yeah, imagine now. The biggest change in culture between the PC of 1995 and today is the user, and this is arguably true for any type of significant tool at the timescale of generations. We evolve with the tools we produce because of the tools we produce. This rule applies to culture as much as it applies to the mess of neural networks in our heads.

Younger folks, and I like to include myself as one, just 'get' electronics. We can fuck with a car stereo for 30 seconds and, through some ingrained, trial and error process, figure out how to set the clock, add favorite radio stations, and contact the International Space Station. Whether it is Windows, Mac OS, Linux, BeOS, AmigaOS, or whatever, as long as some thought was put into the interface, we're (mostly) fearless. Yes, grandpa, we know all about how efficient the command line was for punch card computing. Unless you are actually interested in computing, no one cares. This is where the Mac has generally shined, but mostly because it was only compared to Windows, and generally from the perspective of someone with enough familiarity with both to know that both tools would accomplish the tasks they needed a computer for.

Once this seemingly innate understanding of computing interfaces is understood, it will be implemented in niche devices. Right now it is mostly trial, focus group testing, and error, which has taken us far enough that device makers for low adoption devices to get some pretty slick interfaces. Once we have better rules and theories about the Generation X (or Y or whatever this generation is called) specific differences in HCI, it will be easier for those closest to the goal and with smaller user bases to adapt. Those devices are largely Linux based.

Anyhow, don't wipe your PC yet. I'm not talking about desktop computers, and those are likely to run a completely different course. But, don't shy away from other devices because they happen to have an unfamiliar interface. You might just find it more usable than your *ack!* iMac!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Some Friday Fun!

Ah, Friday. Enjoy a lil barrage of clips. The amazing Randi, phagocytosis in action, walking creatures evolving on your home PC, but first...

New (potentially) awesome show on... The History Channel!?!? Yup. Features one of the guys from Make Magazine*, too (from their vidcast). I saw the first episode and it was good-ish. Lots of potential, but they just have to find their tone. The teaser:

* - If you are not familiar with Make Magazine or Hack a Day, I have to suggest checking both out

Super Paper Friday Attack!

Posting with Zotero and without dealing with hyperlinking is much, much easier for me, so that's the route I'm going with for now. Don't fret. Just download URL Link (or one of the 20 other text to address bar firefox add ons). Oh, wait, nevermind - even better - Linkification! There is a similar add on for IE, and both toggle all text in url format to clickable links (all those addresses will appear as links automagically or at a key press). Sweet!

And btw - Thomson /Reuters is suing the makers of Zotero because they let you convert EndNote formatted libraries to Zotero importable formats. If you read DNI regularly, you know that I hate EndNote with a passion (POS software, but they are starting to show some improvement). Actually, this will increase my usage of ENdNote in the near term, now that I know my libraries are not going to be held captive by proprietary file formats. Good thing Zotero was made by a university (George Mason) and not a small developer.

1. “A Local Circuit Model of Learned Striatal and Dopamine Cell Responses under Probabilistic Schedules of Reward -- Tan and Bullock 28 (40): 10062 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

2. “A Multisensory Cortical Network for Understanding ...[J Cogn Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

3. “Analog signaling in mammalian cortical axons. [Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

4. “Big data: open-source format needed to aid wiki co...[Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

5. “Brain activity during visual versus kinesthetic im...[Hum Brain Mapp. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

6. “Brain-computer interfaces and communication in par...[Clin Neurophysiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

7. “Central mechanisms of tactile shape perception. [Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

8. “Chapter 2 Comparative anatomy and physiology of th...[Handb Clin Neurol. 2007] - PubMed Result,”

9. “Clinical assessment of motor imagery after stroke. [Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2008 Jul-Aug] - PubMed Result,”

10. “Computer science. Weaving a Web of trust. [Science. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

11. “Consolidation patterns of human motor memory. [J Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

12. “Cortical activity time locked to the shift and mai...[Cereb Cortex. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

13. “Cortical Plasticity Induced by Short-Term Unimodal and Multimodal Musical Training -- Lappe et al. 28 (39): 9632 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

14. “Critical Role of the Prefrontal Cortex in the Regulation of Hippocampus-Accumbens Information Flow -- Belujon and Grace 28 (39): 9797 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

15. “Decreasing task-related brain activity over repeat...[Exp Brain Res. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

16. “Detection of neuronal spikes using an adaptive thr...[J Neurosci Methods. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

17. “Embodied semantics for actions: findings from func...[J Physiol Paris. 2008 Jan-May] - PubMed Result,”

18. “Emerging views of corticothalamic function. [Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

19. “Experience-Dependent Plasticity from Eye Opening Enables Lasting, Visual Cortex-Dependent Enhancement of Motion Vision -- Prusky et al. 28 (39): 9817 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

20. “Four-dimensional spatial reasoning in humans. [J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

21. “Integration of cortical areas during performance o...[Neurosci Lett. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

22. “Links from complex spikes to local plasticity and ...[Nat Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

23. “Links from complex spikes to local plasticity and ...[Nat Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

24. “Loss of the Sense of Self-Ownership for Perception...[Psychopathology. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

25. “Micro-rewiring as a substrate for learning. [Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

26. “Mirror-image representation of action in the anterior parietal cortex : Abstract : Nature Neuroscience,”

27. “Misperceiving the speed-accuracy tradeoff: imagine...[Exp Brain Res. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

28. “Modeling the organization of the basal ganglia. [Rev Neurol (Paris). 2008] - PubMed Result,”

29. “Motor Control, Learning and Development. [J Sports Sci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

30. “Multiple systems of spatial memory and action. [Cogn Process. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

31. “Neural Correlates of Stimulus Reportability. [J Cogn Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

32. “Neuronal constructs on conductive polymer fibers,”

33. “Polysynaptic subcircuits in the neocortex: spatial...[Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

34. “Precise and Fuzzy Coding by Olfactory Sensory Neurons -- Hoare et al. 28 (39): 9710 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

35. “Probabilistic sensory recoding. [Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

36. “Reactivation in Ventral Striatum during Hippocampal Ripples: Evidence for the Binding of Reward and Spatial Memories? -- Ahmed et al. 28 (40): 9895 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

37. “Response to Cohen Kadosh and Walsh: Synaesthesia: ...[Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

38. “Reward-predictive cues enhance excitatory synaptic...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

39. “Robots refined. [Nature. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

40. “Scholarly publishing. House weighs proposal to blo...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

41. “ScienceDirect - Artificial Intelligence in Medicine : Philosophical foundations of artificial consciousness,”

42. “ScienceDirect - Brain and Cognition : Simple movement imitation: Are kinematic features sufficient to map perceptions into actions?,”

43. “ScienceDirect - Cognition : Mental imagery and synaesthesia: Is synaesthesia from internally-generated stimuli possible?,”

44. “ScienceDirect - Consciousness and Cognition : On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimotor approach to perception,”

45. “ScienceDirect - Neuropsychologia : Modulation of motor, premotor cortices by actions, action words and action sentences,”

46. “ScienceDirect - Trends in Neurosciences : The role of fluctuations in perception,”

47. “SOVEREIGN: An autonomous neural system for increme...[Neural Netw. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

48. “Synaesthesia and cortical connections: cause or co...[Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

49. “The Posterior Parietal Cortex Encodes in Parallel Both Goals for Double-Reach Sequences -- Baldauf et al. 28 (40): 10081 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

50. “The role of fluctuations in perception. [Trends Neurosci. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

51. “The role of order of practice in learning to handl...[Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

52. “The statistics of a practical seizure warning system,”

53. “Time-Specific Contribution of the Supplementary Motor Area to Intermanual Transfer of Procedural Knowledge -- Perez et al. 28 (39): 9664 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

54. “Top-Down Control of Human Visual Cortex by Frontal and Parietal Cortex in Anticipatory Visual Spatial Attention -- Bressler et al. 28 (40): 10056 -- Journal of Neuroscience,”

55. “Toward Optimal Target Placement for Neural Prosthe...[J Neurophysiol. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

56. “Understanding overbidding: using the neural circui...[Science. 2008] - PubMed Result,”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Consciousness obliterated

Birbaumer and Kubler have a paper in Clinical Neurophysiology on the idea that completely locked-in patients essentially slip off into unconsciousness once they become completely locked-in.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between physical impairment and brain–computer interface (BCI) performance.
Method: We present a meta-analysis of 29 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and six patients with other severe neurological diseases in different stages of physical impairment who were trained with a BCI. In most cases voluntary regulation of slow cortical potentials has been used as input signal for BCI-control. More recently sensorimotor rhythms and the P300 event-related brain potential were recorded.
Results: A strong correlation has been found between physical impairment and BCI performance, indicating that performance worsens as impairment increases. Seven patients were in the complete locked-in state (CLIS) with no communication possible. After removal of these patients from the analysis, the relationship between physical impairment and BCI performance disappeared. The lack of a relation between physical impairment and BCI performance was confirmed when adding BCI data of patients from other BCI research groups.
Conclusions: Basic communication (yes/no) was not restored in any of the CLIS patients with a BCI. Whether locked-in patients can transfer learned brain control to the CLIS remains an open empirical question.
Significance: Voluntary brain regulation for communication is possible in all stages of paralysis except the CLIS.
They examined 29 ALS patients (+ 6 others) who had been trained on a P300 based BCI system prior to the onset of completely locked-in syndrome. Once CLIS set in, they were no longer able to communicate using the system. Literature related to two other non-invasive techniques were used in addition to the P300 based system - low cortical potentials and sensory-motor rhythms. While performance across the board was "usable" (66% success is hardly usable, but I digress), once completely locked-in, patients' performance dropped to chance (except for one individual).

I have a better hypothesis. Use of an EEG based system becomes impossible once completely locked in. EEG relies on large scale, detectable changes in millions of neurons. Locked-in syndrome likely results in large scale changes to cortical topography, due to the lack of feedback - both reinforcing and resultant - resulting in slow wave potential differences unique to this, what might be called 'normalized', state. Nevertheless, an interesting and somewhat calming idea - no pain or negativity, you just drift off into nothingness.

The logical follow-ups are to take this up and down a level. As anti-fMRI as I am (not too strongly, but I think the studies waaay overstate their significance usually), throw them in the magnet and condition different modalities on different answers. Given a multiple choice question, choice A = imagine seeing fireworks, choice B = imagine hearing a train whistle, choice C = imagine throwing a baseball, etc. Just in testing the ability to before these imagined tasks should be enough to assess their ability to respond to a command. Then to provide some very rudimentary, slow communication, use the above association technique. And by down a level, I of course mean single unit recording.

A final thought. Since language is so tightly tied to the motor system, it is possible that communication becomes obfuscated by some severe, hybrid aphasia. If that is the case, the question becomes whether consciousness relies on language. And if that is the case, how does that change the way we see animals, robots and babies (or baby animal robots!). Just something to think about the next time you hippie liberal academics are smoking up at the drum circle. :P