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Biotech Technology

Device Reads Messages From Surface of the Brain 156

Al writes "Technology Review has a story about a start-up company that has developed a more-accurate and less-invasive way to read a patient's thoughts. Neurolutions, based in St Louis, has developed a small implanted device that translates signals recorded from the surface of the brain into computer commands. The device, which is less invasive than implants and more accurate than scalp electrodes, uses a grid of electrodes placed directly on the surface of the brain to monitor electrical activity. This technology is currently used to find the origin of seizures in patients with uncontrolled epilepsy before surgery. But the company says it could also help paralyzed patients control a computer and perhaps prosthetic limbs using their thoughts. Tests involving more than 20 patients have shown that people can quickly learn to move a cursor on a computer screen using their brain activity."
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Device Reads Messages From Surface of the Brain

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  • by venicebeach ( 702856 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:23PM (#28203441) Homepage Journal
    The signals in that video are recorded from the scalp. Basically when you filter the electrical signals from the brain through the skull you lose a lot of spatial resolution. Given that spatial maps are one important way the brain encodes information having the electrodes actually on the surface of the brain makes a huge difference in the amount of information you have access to.

    That said, this is not really a new technology, merely a new application of electrocorticography [wikipedia.org]. Non-invasive it is not, since it involves opening up the skull. It's only "less invasive" compared with poking an electrode deep into the brain.
  • Re:How much... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Co0Ps ( 1539395 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:28PM (#28203503)
    As we have yet to have identified exactly how single neurons work, I doubt that the point where we can begin to reverse engineer the brain will be soon. And when we do I doubt that affecting the brains experiences or information will be done with drugs, as drugs can only target large regions. Maybe by hooking electronics directly onto the nerve system (matrix style)?
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:33PM (#28203571)

    Technology Review has a story about a start-up company that has developed a more-accurate and less-invasive way to read a patients thoughts.

    "More-accurate and less-invasive" is misleading, since the thing that it is "more accurate" than is not the same thing it is "less invasive" than. It is more accurate than the minimally-invasive electrodes-on-the-scalp method, and less-invasive than the more accurate electrodes-implanted-into-the-brain method.

    It is, likewise, less accurate than the electrodes-in-the-brain method, and more invasive than the electrodes-on-the-scalp method, so it would be as accurate (and as hyperbolic, in the opposite direction) as TFS to call it a "less-accurate and more-invasive" method as it was to call it a "more-accurate and less-invasive" method (simply switching which existing method it was compared to for accuracy and which it was compared to for invasiveness.)

    It would be most accurate (and not at all hyperbolic) to call it a method which is intermediate between two existing methods in terms of both accuracy and invasiveness.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:36PM (#28203601)


    developed a small implanted device that translates signals recorded from the surface of the brain into computer commands. The device, which is less invasive than implants

    How's that again?

    I suppose I could break down read TFA.....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:38PM (#28203635)

    The potential abuses of this sort of device are many.

    * Policeman A to Policeman B: "Check this out! Just as fun as a Tazer, but no physical contact required!" (Points government-issued remote control at random passerby and presses button)

    * Prosecutor in courtroom to policeman on the witness stand: "And what was it about Mr. Jones which caused you to arrest him?" Policeman: "My government-issued Thought Interceptor Display showed me that he was *thinking* about robbing a bank. And, he also thought about the Pope, the damn, stinking Catholic -- everybody knows what *they* are like!"

    * Supervisor at work, viewing a screen while speaking to his/her subordinate: "So, Bill, what do you *really* think of my new policies?"

    * NSA/DIA/FBI/TLA agent to terrified detainee: "Mr. Jones, you were the only one who had access to those classified documents whose movements are unaccounted for. The contents of those documents are now in the hands of the . Who have you been talking to?"

    Detainee: "Nobody... no-one.... I didn't do anything, I didn't... oh, my God! My neural interface unit must have been scanned!"

    Agent: "A likely story. Take him away!"

    * Smiling man with a laptop stands near the polls. A voter comes out and is given a media exit interview, and says (twitching), "Yes... Candidate-Johnson-is-the-best-candidate. I-love-candidate-Johnson. Johnson-has-the-welfare-of-the-people-in-mind-at-all-times."

    * Doctor to patient who is physically restrained, but continues to writhe madly: "Mr. Smith, I can't find any biological reason for these spasm. Have you installed the latest code patch flash into your Model 43 Neural Interface Unit?"

    Yeah, it's mostly tin-foil-hat tallk, but still possible.

    Actually, I think the last scenario is the most likely. Who would you trust to write and verify correct code for a device which interfaced directly to your brain?

  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:58PM (#28204827)
    Offtopic: You know ~ is already in use to elongate words. Or make them sound more musical.
    ex. Hi~

    The origin is Japanese where a double vowel word like konpyuutaa is written as konpyu~ta~ (written in japanese character of course). Written to drag it out you would write one really long tilde but since the advent of computers generally people use a chain of them together. Also of note that you might be interested in from japanese culture. Japanese people often end sentences with a ;; or even shorter ; to represent a type of sadness or confusion( ;_; is a sad emoticon in japan and ^^;; is confusion (sweat drops)), this is possible since the semicolon doesn't exist in Japanese. As well some people use ^ at the end of a line for happiness (from ^_^). And // for.... ughh or you are an idiot (from -_-//). There are other various sentence endings that take part of the emoticon and attach it to the end to refer to different things. And japan has hundreds of different kaomoji(emoticons) unlike the 10 we might use. And so you don't need to ask, there isn't to my knowledge a line ending for sarcasm. I think it'd defeat the purpose of being sarcastic anyways :P
  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:16PM (#28205339)

    "connecting cameras to their tongues" WTF?

    The original ScienceNews article from 2001 is now subscriber only:

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/1946/title/The_Seeing_Tongue [sciencenews.org]

    But you can read a copy of it at:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_9_160/ai_78681631/ [findarticles.com]

  • Re:Get the message (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:04AM (#28205599) Journal
    Fucking Slashdot, all the green-background headers are invisible, due to being white-background for all parts except the initial "curve at top left". Any orange (yro.slashdot.org) or purple (games.slashdot.org) pages show up just fine. This has been happening for over a week, now, on Firefox 3.0.10 on Windows XP. The "workaround" is to highlight the header, so I can see what the text says... Or, Ctrl+A to mark the whole page, and read in inverse. Yay!!!
  • Re:Killer App (Score:2, Informative)

    by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:40AM (#28205779) Homepage Journal
    Except your eyes don't sit staring at one spot even when you think your staring at one spot, your eyes continuously flicker around and scan the general direction your looking at in order to build up a image of the world. I think there has already been several machines that read where your looking from the reflection off your eyes, with middling results. In general people just can't hold the stare, even if the machine can average out the microscans of the eyes.
  • Re:Get the message (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @07:44AM (#28207531) Journal
    I've discovered a workaround: click the first post. Then click the story link on that post's page, and the header lines will be back. Seriously, I understand not "testing" the articles when posting, but not testing code changes to the site? I wish I could have a job where I could light up at work. Or simply be that incompetent, I guess the reason why doesn't really matter.
  • Re:Get the message (Score:2, Informative)

    by armareum ( 925270 ) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @05:36PM (#28215349)
    They borked classic view to force you to move to the new beta view. I had your problem, and moved over to fix it.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"