Donchin's ERP work in the Times
backon at vms.huji.ac.il
backon at vms.huji.ac.il
Tue Feb 23 14:13:13 EST 1993
In article <1993Feb10.022019.7846 at reed.edu>, zeke at reed.edu (Zeke Koch) writes:
> Does anyone know anything about Donchin's work on Computer Human
> Interaction? I saw the following article in the times today.
> THE NEW YORK TIMES, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1993
> Computers Are Starting to Take Humans' Wishes as Their Commands
> By ANDREW POLLACK
> ATSUGI, Japan
> People now control computers with a keyboard, a
> mouse or in some cases with spoken commands But at Japan's largest
> computer company, Fujitsu Ltd, and at several other laboratories
> around The world, researchers are developing ways to control a
> compu~er by merely thinking a command
> A New York State Department of Health research Team has developed a
> system that allows users, after some training, to move a cursor slowly
> up and down or side to side on a computer screen by mental action
> alone. University of Illinois psychologists developed a way of
> allowing people to type, albeit at a rate of only 2.3 characters a
> minute, by spelling out words in their minds
> And at the research laboratories of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone
> Corporation, Japan's main telephone company, researchers have devised
> techniques to tell from brain waves, with a fair degree of accuracy,
> the direction a person will move a joystick. A similar project is
> under way at Graz University of Technology in Austria.
> "This is no parapsychological exercise," said Emanuel Donchin, a
> professor of psychology at the University of Illinois who led the
> development of the thought controlled typewriter. Rather, such
> mind-over-cursor techniques work by having computers analyze electric
> signals emitted by the brain as it works The signals are collected by
> electroencephalography, or EEG, a technique that involves attaching
> electrodes to the scalp. It has long been used to diagnose brain
> Complete human-brain computer interaction is certainly decades away
> and might never move beyond science fiction. But in the next decade,
> practical if limited systems for helping severely handicapped people
> communicate or operate appliances are seen as feasible. A related
> technique in which electrical signals to the muscles are detected and
> analyzed is also being explored to help paralyzed people operate
> artificial arms or legs.
> If we can use a computer without even uttering a sound, it would be
> easier," said Norio Fujimaki, one of the three researchers
> participating in an experimental program on thought driven computers
> at Fujitsu's research laboratory in this city near Yokohama.
> Attempts to develop thought input for computers began in the 1970's
> with the "biocybernetics" program financed by the United States
> Defense Department. One goal was to enable a computer to determine the
> state of mind of a fighter pilot so it could better assist him in
> operating the plane, said Professor Donchin, who was involved in the
Well, now that the Cold War is over, you should be aware that Dr. Bechtereva
and her staff at the Leningrad Military Hospital (Russia) had carried out
factor-analysis of neuronal multiple unit activity and had actually succeeded
in decoding phonemes, thoughts, etc. from implanted electrodes on *volunteers*.
This work was done over 16 years ago and was highly classified.
Later work (not in the Soviet Union) enabled surface electrodes to decode what
the person *thought*.
For obvious reasons, I can't exactly elaborate on this.
backon at VMS.HUJI.AC.IL
> But the program was discontinued. in the early 1980's, and since then
> work in this field, aimed mainly at medical uses, has been sporadic,
> hurt by shortages of financing and technical obstacles. Research in
> this area often raises concerns about whether technology will be
> developed to read minds. But Professor Donchin and others, say that
> most of the systems under development cannot eavesdrop on a person's
> Indeed, for now and in the near future it is a major challenge to
> recognize from brain waves if a person means "yes" or "no," let alone
> to understand complex thoughts. That is because there is little
> understanding about the connection between any particular thought and
> the voltages emitted by brain cells.
> Moreover, any one signal may be drowned out by the signals from all
> the other brain activities going on at the same time.
> Don't Breathe, Please
> "It's difficult enough to have a speech recognition device, but there
> you know the language," said Erich Sutter, a senior scientist at the
> Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco who developed
> a system using EEG that can tell where on a computer screen a person
> is looking. "With EEG signals, we really don't know the language the
> brain uses, and the brain may be doing all sorts of things unrelated
> to the thought you are trying to dig out."
> Consider the first efforts at thought input by Dr. Fujimaki of Fujitsu
> and his collaborator, Prof. Shinya Kuriki of Hokkaido University.
> A volunteer sitting in a chair would have 12 electrodes attached to
> his or her scalp. Because any movement, even blinking or looking at
> the scenery, would generate a brain signal 10 times larger than the
> one the researchers were trying to detect, subjects had their heads
> locked in one position with a special brace. They were told to stare
> at a black dot and to breathe, blink and swallow as little as
> The subjects were told to say the sound "ah" in their mind, without
> actually voicing it, when they saw one color of flashing light, but
> not to say it when they saw another color. By averaging dozens of
> readings, Dr. Fujimaki could detect a difference in brain pattern when
> a person was mentally saying "ah"
> `It's Far From Practical'
> But the need to take so many readings rules out the use of the
> technique for computer control. Ideally, a person would want to think
> the letter "a" only once and have it recognized. "In our experiment,
> 10 hours are required to communicate only one vowel " Dr. Fujimaki
> said. "It's far from practical communications."
> Other researchers have made more progress by using particular signals
> that are easier to detect and analyze.
> At the University of Illinois, Professor Donchin took advantage of
> what; is known as the "oddball paradigm." When someone sees something
> that he or she has been waiting for but that occurs only rarely, the
> brain emits a detectable signal about three-tenths of a second later.
> To develop his brain-activated typewriter, Professor Donchin arranged
> the letters of the alphabet in rows and columns that were displayed on
> a computer screen. The rows and columns were flashed one by one in a
> random order. When either the row or the column containing the letter
> a person was thinking about flashed on the screen, the person's brain
> would emit the telltale signal. By knowing the row and column, the
> computer could then identify the proper letter.
> Disciplining the Brain
> At the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center for
> Laboratories and Research in Albany, Dr. Jonathan R. Wolpaw and his
> colleagues get around the problem of having a computer try to guess
> what the brain is thinking. Their approach is to train the brain to
> emit signals that can be easily understood by a computer. "It's
> putting the task on the brain," Dr. Wolpaw said.
> Dr. Wolpaw's technique uses mu waves, which are rhythmic signals
> emitted by the brain's sensorimotor center when it is in idle mode.
> In Dr. Wolpaw's system, electrodes measure the amplitude of the mu
> waves and translate large amplitudes into an upward movement of the
> cursor and low amplitudes into a downward movement.
> In one experiment, four of five subjects gradually learned to control
> their mu waves enough to move a cursor from the center of the screen
> to either the top or the bottom in about three seconds.
> Some subjects found that particular thoughts, say, about weightlifting
> would move the cursor down, while thoughts about relaxing moved the
> cursor up. After a while, such imagery was no longer needed, Dr.
> Wolpaw said.
> By using more detailed measurements of the mu rhythms, Dr. Wolpaw's
> team has recently succeeded in enabling people to move the cursor side
> to side as well as up or down. But people still cannot bring the
> cursor to a particular point and stop, a level of control needed to
> develop the mental equivalent of a computer's mouse.
> Akira Hiraiwa and his colleagues at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone
> have taken advantage of the fact that the brain emits certain voltages
> before an action, is taken. They developed a pattern- matching
> computer known as a neural network that could tell the difference
> between signals corresponding to a left and right movement of a
> joystick. But it was difficult to have the system work fast enough to
> make the prediction before the movement occurred, although researchers
> in Austria, using a similar technique, say they can do this.
> Even for paralyzed people, brain control right now is still
> impractical, compared with other techniques that have been developed
> to allow people to control computers by eye movements or breath.
> In recent years, techniques have been developed that provide better
> images of the working brain than EEG does. Positron emission
> tomography and fast magnetic resonance imaging have provided pictures
> of the brain as it performs a function like recalling a word
> Dr. Fujimaki of Fujitsu hopes to use extremely sensitive supercon
> ducting sensors to read the faint magnetic waves emitted by the brain.
> Such magnetic mea
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