IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP

Devices that read human thought now possible

Kalman Rubinson kr4 at nyu.edu
Tue Nov 11 11:17:12 EST 2003

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 06:24:17 GMT, "Allen L. Barker"
<alb at datafilter.com> wrote:

>So now it's nothing surprising.  But people have been denying up and
>down that any of this stuff is possible at all, for years.  All while
>suffering victims tried to get people to listen to them.

Suffering victims?

> *Of course*
>it is all statistics, once you have the basic measurements from whatever
>multiple sensor system you are using.  That and some realtime processing.
>What is "merely" about that, though?  And guess what, those secret labs
>do have sensors that are much more sensitive than what you or I can get.

Perhaps but not likely.

>I'm not sure what your point is or why you seem to be defensive.

I have little tolerance for paranoia.


>>>Kalman Rubinson wrote:
>>>>Hah! Let us have one when you can so that we can replaced our MEG.
>>>>On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 02:14:21 GMT, "Allen L. Barker"
>>>><alb at datafilter.com> wrote:
>>>>>[Now that such things are openly known to be possible it is
>>>>>time to consider the ethical and human rights issues involved.
>>>>>It is actually well past time, but better late than never.
>>>>>Such technologies can help the disabled and could even enhance
>>>>>our ordinary cognition.  But they can also be used nonconsensually
>>>>>-- in situations like interrogations -- in ways which would justify
>>>>>the term mind rape.  Such devices can be designed into torture
>>>>>implements, to turn the brain's own signals against it to inflict
>>>>>enhanced psychological (and concomitant physical) injuries.
>>>>>Such nonconsensual testing and application of the technologies
>>>>>and techniques may be carried out under the false cover of
>>>>>psychiatric illness -- with plenty of historical precedent,
>>>>>Devices that read human thought now possible, study says
>>>>>Brain implants could help severely disabled
>>>>>Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer
>>>>>New Orleans -- Less than a month after a widely heralded experiment
>>>>>showed how thought-reading implants can work in monkeys, scientists
>>>>>presented new findings Sunday suggesting such machines could work in
>>>>>people, too.
>>>>>Dr. Miguel A.L. Nicolelis of Duke University said previously
>>>>>unreported human experiments demonstrated success with one type of a
>>>>>so-called brain computer interface, or BCI.
>>>>>He and others discussed their latest findings Sunday at the annual
>>>>>meeting in New Orleans of the Society for Neuroscience, the world's
>>>>>largest gathering of brain researchers. About 28,000 people are
>>>>>attending the weeklong event.
>>>>>Much of the attention on Sunday was given to technology designed to
>>>>>overcome paralyzing injuries or illnesses afflicting the nervous
>>>>>system. About 11,000 new cases arise every year, adding to a total
>>>>>estimated at more than 200,000.
>>>>>Nicolelis said the new study had been done in a few Parkinson's
>>>>>disease patients while they were undergoing open-skull neurosurgery
>>>>>for their disease.
>>>>>Full results, he said, have been submitted for peer review to a
>>>>>scientific journal and were not a formal part of the program, in which
>>>>>he and colleagues reported new details from the monkey experiments
>>>>>already published.
>>>>>Nicolelis said the important point was that the principle had been
>>>>>shown to work: People can control devices merely by thinking.
>>>>>Ultimately, it may be possible to design high-tech implants that can
>>>>>read and direct the muscles using the patient's own intentions and
>>>>>natural sensory equipment.
>>>>>For now, it's a much less grandiose business of just tuning the
>>>>>equipment to the human brain's frequency.
>>>>>In the Duke experiments, patients were being fitted with standard
>>>>>electrical stimulator devices, which can help to control Parkinson's
>>>>>This procedure requires the patient to be awake while the surgeon
>>>>>identifies a safe route through brain tissue, taking care not to harm
>>>>>brain cells needed for essential functions. As part of that process,
>>>>>the surgeon periodically asks the patient to speak or move while
>>>>>recording localized brain activity.
>>>>>Nicolelis and his colleagues took advantage of the opportunity and
>>>>>recorded the information the surgeon was obtaining. Then, for
>>>>>five-minute periods while the patient was being operated on, they
>>>>>conducted simple reaching-and-grasping experiments to determine
>>>>>whether the patient's intentions could accurately be read -- the first
>>>>>essential step in controlling a limb by computer implant.
>>>>>That's a far cry from proving that a workable long-term implant would
>>>>>be safe and effective. Nicolelis said it was much too soon to "even
>>>>>think about" moving any particular device into full-blown clinical
>>>>>A competing group, however, led by founders and collaborators of a
>>>>>company called Cyberkinetics Inc., has announced plans to begin a
>>>>>small safety study next year of an implant designed to allow a
>>>>>paralyzed patient to control a desktop computer.
>>>>>That device, called "BrainGate," is based on research at Brown
>>>>>led by scientist John Donaghue. He and other company officials
>>>>>described the technology on Sunday as a "novel gateway" for people
>>>>>with no other options.
>>>>>"These are the opening days of a new era in neurotechnology," Donaghue
>>>>>The competition, however, has gotten somewhat testy of late amid an
>>>>>explosion of interest. Some scientists accuse Nicolelis of
>>>>>overreaching, noting that his latest monkey experiment actually wasn't
>>>>>the first to show a "thoughts-into-action" device could function in a
>>>>>primate; he was merely the first to show that a monkey's brain firings
>>>>>could be harnessed to direct complicated movement, involving both
>>>>>reaching and grasping.
>>>>>Meanwhile, Nicolelis decried the entry of corporate interests into a
>>>>>field once thought to be purely science fiction, now being taken
>>>>>seriously as modern medicine at the cutting edge of technology.
>>>>>"I am a university professor," Nicolelis said. "I have no interests in
>>>>>any business. I am Brazilian -- I want to have fun, I don't want to
>>>>>make money. What I am very afraid of is that people who really want to
>>>>>make a buck out of this will be rushing into the clinical thing. I
>>>>>don't believe in that. A lot of important science needs to be done,
>>>>>and we need to go step by step in a very careful way."
>>>>>All the labs claim to be pursuing the technology responsibly.
>>>>>Donaghue and his colleagues pointed out they were also university
>>>>>scientists who realized the only way to fully exploit the technology
>>>>>was to form a company capable of raising the money needed to carry out
>>>>>very expensive clinical studies. Cyberkinetics is proceeding with the
>>>>>guidance of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
>>>>>In the latest studies on people, Nicolelis' Duke group had to use a
>>>>>simplified version of the animal study protocol to stay within the
>>>>>bounds of a five-minute surgical window. But that was still enough,
>>>>>Nicolelis said, to show animal and human brains can be read much in
>>>>>the same way.
>>>>>"We are showing the same computational algorithms work, the same
>>>>>technology in general works, suggesting the principle would work in a
>>>>>patient that is severely handicapped," Nicolelis said. "We are able to
>>>>>predict the hand position, and the hand force, while they are doing
>>>>>the task during the surgery."
>>>>>Before you can lift even a finger, nerves fire in the brain, along the
>>>>>spinal cord and nerve pathways of the arm, then back again in a
>>>>>tightly controlled feedback loop.
>>>>>Douglas J. Weber, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, reported
>>>>>new research Sunday suggesting that the motion of a limb can be
>>>>>accurately predicted by reading the firings of just a handful of brain
>>>>>cells -- only 10 or so in one case.
>>>>>That means it may be simpler than once imagined to tap into the body's
>>>>>own sensory apparatus to keep some natural motion going with a brain
>>>>>implant merely as a detour around a damaged spinal cord or other
>>>>>problem in the brain's natural circuitry.
>>>>>Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw of the New York State Department of Health's
>>>>>Wadsworth Center described new methods of reading signals that can be
>>>>>detected outside and just beneath the surface of the skull, suggesting
>>>>>the possibility that some devices may not even have to be implanted
>>>>>into the brain. Implants run some risk of infections and other
>>>>>But he and others emphasized it might be several years before the
>>>>>first such devices were ready for widespread use, and they noted that
>>>>>the technology worked only in individuals who might be utterly
>>>>>disabled and "locked in," with no ability to move even their eyes, and
>>>>>yet had enough healthy brain activity to drive the implants.
>>>>>The revolution will start slowly, Wolpaw said, in a few people "who
>>>>>are the most disabled and who have no other options."

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net