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Interfacing with PNS for new purposes

Allen L. Barker alb at datafilter.com
Tue Nov 11 12:26:04 EST 2003

Panagiotis Artemiadis wrote:
> I would like to pose a question.
> Except from interfacing with the peripheral neural system (PNS) in order to
> extract the
> signals-"commands" that sends to muscles, is there an option-idea of sending
> back
> (stimulating) data to the PNS, through the same kind of interfaces, in order
> to
> produce sensor signals back to the human?
> Any opinions, criticisms, ideas and feedback would be legitimate.

The monkeys who learned to control devices with their brain-computer
interfaces got feedback through their ordinary senses, mainly their
eyes.  You seem to be proposing something like where they would perhaps
get simulated tactile information as if their hands were still moving
the joystick.  Work on prosthetic limbs has surely touched on these
issues.  There has also been a lot of continuing work on stimulation of the
retina and visual cortex to help the blind see.  More advanced proposals
for things like that have involved things like having Terminator-style
visual overlays sent directly to the brain of a pilot.  (Try a search
on "teledildonics" for fun, and imagine the possibilities.)

A problem with animal studies in brain-level sensory stimulation, is
that they cannot report what they sense, and so you have to infer it...

There is also the somewhat arbitrary question of what feedback you will
consider.  Does it count, for example, if I send the feedback data to the
cochlea rather than to the auditory cortex?  Or are you considering only
brain stimulation?  For many practical purposes it does not matter, since
the signal ends up in the same place (and even needs less preprocessing).
Are you restricting the stimulation to only mimic natural sensory data?
Any sort of patterned brain stimulation can be considered to be like a
new sensory organ, which need not be like any earlier ones.  You could
wire a person up to directly receive x-ray emissions from a black hole
in a distant galaxy if you wanted to, and could encode the data in any
way you wanted to.  The question of what sorts of data are actually
useful is an obvious one.  The question of how to encode such data so
that the interface can be efficiently learned and used is an open one.
How do you wire up the interface?  What can the brain (or a particular
brain region) best learn to process and utilize?  A good neural model
would help in answering these questions.

A curious possibility is that a person might access and utilize the
new sensory information without consciously knowing that he or she was
doing so.  Try a search on "blindsight."


As far as the history of technology for such feedback systems,
Delgado did a lot of work back in the 60s and 70s.  He called his
implanted device a "stimoceiver" for "stimulator and EEG receiver."
See, for example, http://www.datafilter.com/mc/delgadoIntracerebral.html
for one of his 1968 articles.  By the mid-70s he was experimenting with
wireless systems and discussing two-way computer-brain interfaces.  I
recently posted an excerpt from his article "Two-Way Transdermal
Communication with the Brain," _American Psychologist_, March, 1975.

On the less savory side -- and Delgado isn't exactly savory -- by the
early 70s there were serious proposals to test and use such systems on
humans to monitor and control their behavior.  It would have been
applied to parolees, for example, after they were "freed."  In 1974 the
Senate Ervin committee produced an influential (if unfortunately now
little-known) report called _Individual Rights and the Federal Role in
Behavior Modification_.  Here are a few excerpts:
The next link contains some information about the proposed UCLA Violence
Project from the early 70s, which was at least publicly abandoned after
public protests:
See also the final article on the page about Kathryn Kelley's research
that was shut down.

It is vital to keep in mind the human rights implications and
societal implications of this research.  The technology is developing
anyway, but scientists and engineers need to speak out and act as
influential citizens to ensure that the technology is not abused once
they create it and pass it on to whoever will use it.  They can
especially help to shed light on abuses that persist by being hidden
and denied via the abuse of secrecy.

Mind Control: TT&P ==> http://www.datafilter.com/mc
Home page: http://www.datafilter.com/alb
Allen Barker

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