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Fake memories: Using optogenetics and holographic projection, scientists aim to implant perceptions in brain

Fake memories: Using optogenetics and holographic projection, scientists aim to implant perceptions in brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

What if we could edit the sensations we feel; paste in our brain pictures that we never saw, cut out unwanted pain or insert non-existent scents into memory?

 

UC Berkeley neuroscientists are building the equipment to do just that, using holographic projection into the brain to activate or suppress dozens and ultimately thousands of neurons at once, hundreds of times each second, copying real patterns of brain activity to fool the brain into thinking it has felt, seen or sensed something.

 

The goal is to read neural activity constantly and decide, based on the activity, which sets of neurons to activate to simulate the pattern and rhythm of an actual brain response, so as to replace lost sensations after peripheral nerve damage, for example, or control a prosthetic limb.

 

“This has great potential for neural prostheses, since it has the precision needed for the brain to interpret the pattern of activation. If you can read and write the language of the brain, you can speak to it in its own language and it can interpret the message much better,” said Alan Mardinly, a postdoctoral fellow in the UC Berkeley lab of Hillel Adesnik, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology. “This is one of the first steps in a long road to develop a technology that could be a virtual brain implant with additional senses or enhanced senses.”

 

Mardinly is one of three first authors of a paper appearing online April 30, 2018, in advance of publication in the journal Nature Neuroscience that describes the holographic brain modulator, which can activate up to 50 neurons at once in a three-dimensional chunk of brain containing several thousand neurons, and repeat that up to 300 times a second with different sets of 50 neurons.

 

“The ability to talk to the brain has the incredible potential to help compensate for neurological damage caused by degenerative diseases or injury,” said Ehud Isacoff, a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, who was not involved in the research project. “By encoding perceptions into the human cortex, you could allow the blind to see or the paralyzed to feel touch.”

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Recording data from one million neurons in real time

Recording data from one million neurons in real time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Neuroscientists at the Neuronano Research Centre at Lund University in Sweden have developed and tested an ambitious new design for processing and storing the massive amounts of data expected from future implantable brain machine interfaces (BMIs) and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).

 

The system would simultaneously acquire data from more than 1 million neurons in real time. It would convert the spike data (using bit encoding) and send it via an effective communication format for processing and storage on conventional computer systems. It would also provide feedback to a subject in under 25 milliseconds — stimulating up to 100,000 neurons.

 

Monitoring large areas of the brain in real time

Applications of this new design include basic research, clinical diagnosis, and treatment. It would be especially useful for future implantable, bidirectional BMIs and BCIs, which are used to communicate complex data between neurons and computers. This would include monitoring large areas of the brain in paralyzed patients, revealing an imminent epileptic seizure, and providing real-time feedback control to robotic arms used by quadriplegics and others.

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Surprise: Older adults grow just as many new brain cells as young people

Surprise: Older adults grow just as many new brain cells as young people | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers show for the first time that healthy older men and women can generate just as many new brain cells as younger people.

 

There has been controversy over whether adult humans grow new neurons, and some research has previously suggested that the adult brain was hard-wired and that adults did not grow new neurons. This study, to appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell on April 5, counters that notion. Lead author Maura Boldrini, associate professor of neurobiology at Columbia University, says the findings may suggest that many senior citizens remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than commonly believed.

 

"We found that older people have similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons from progenitor cells as younger people do," Boldrini says. "We also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus (a brain structure used for emotion and cognition) across ages. Nevertheless, older individuals had less vascularization and maybe less ability of new neurons to make connections."

 

The researchers autopsied hippocampi from 28 previously healthy individuals aged 14-79 who had died suddenly. This is the first time researchers looked at newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels within the entire human hippocampus soon after death. The researchers had determined that study subjects were not cognitively impaired and had not suffered from depression or taken antidepressants, which Boldrini and colleagues had previously found could impact the production of new brain cells.

 

In rodents and primates, the ability to generate new hippocampal cells declines with age. Waning production of neurons and an overall shrinking of the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus thought to help form new episodic memories, was believed to occur in aging humans as well.

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Brain-to-Vehicle technology to redefine future of driving?

Brain-to-Vehicle technology to redefine future of driving? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Nissan unveiled research today that will enable vehicles to interpret signals from the driver’s brain, redefining how people interact with their cars.

 

The company’s Brain-to-Vehicle, or B2V, technology promises to speed up reaction times for drivers and will lead to cars that keep adapting to make driving more enjoyable. Nissan will demonstrate capabilities of this exclusive technology at the CES 2018 trade show in Las Vegas. B2V is the latest development in Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the company’s vision for transforming how cars are driven, powered and integrated into society.

 

“When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines. Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable,” said Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci. “Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are moving people to a better world by delivering more autonomy, more electrification and more connectivity.”

 

This breakthrough from Nissan is the result of research into using brain decoding technology to predict a driver’s actions and detect discomfort:

  • Predict: By catching signs that the driver’s brain is about to initiate a movement – such as turning the steering wheel or pushing the accelerator pedal – driver assist technologies can begin the action more quickly. This can improve reaction times and enhance manual driving.
  • Detect: By detecting and evaluating driver discomfort, artificial intelligence can change the driving configuration or driving style when in autonomous mode.

 

Other possible uses include adjusting the vehicle’s internal environment, said Dr. Lucian Gheorghe, senior innovation researcher at the Nissan Research Center in Japan, who’s leading the B2V research. For example, the technology can use augmented reality to adjust what the driver sees and create a more relaxing environment. “The potential applications of the technology are incredible,” Gheorghe said. “This research will be a catalyst for more Nissan innovation inside our vehicles in the years to come.”


Via Daniel Perez-Marcos
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Do our brains use the same kind of deep-learning algorithms used in AI?

Do our brains use the same kind of deep-learning algorithms used in AI? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Deep-learning researchers have found that certain neurons in the brain have shape and electrical properties that appear to be well-suited for “deep learning” — the kind of machine-intelligence used in beating humans at Go and Chess.

 

Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) Fellow Blake Richards and his colleagues — Jordan Guerguiev at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, and Timothy Lillicrap at Google DeepMind — developed an algorithm that simulates how a deep-learning network could work in our brains. It represents a biologically realistic way by which real brains could do deep learning.

 

The finding is detailed in a study published December 5th in the open-access journal eLife. (The paper is highly technical; Adam Shai of Stanford University and Matthew E. Larkum of Humboldt University, Germany wrote a more accessible paper summarizing the ideas, published in the same eLife issue.)


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Study reveals molecular mechanisms of memory formation

Study reveals molecular mechanisms of memory formation | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT neuroscientists have uncovered a cellular pathway that allows specific synapses to become stronger during memory formation. The findings provide the first glimpse of the molecular mechanism by which long-term memories are encoded in a region of the hippocampus called CA3.

 

The researchers found that a protein called Npas4, previously identified as a master controller of gene expression triggered by neuronal activity, controls the strength of connections between neurons in the CA3 and those in another part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus. Without Npas4, long-term memories cannot form.

 

“Our study identifies an experience-dependent synaptic mechanism for memory encoding in CA3, and provides the first evidence for a molecular pathway that selectively controls it,” says Yingxi Lin, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

 

Lin is the senior author of the study, which appears in the Feb. 8 issue of Neuron. The paper’s lead author is McGovern Institute research scientist Feng-Ju (Eddie) Weng.

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Scientists Discover the Brain Signature that Sets Creative Thinkers Apart

Scientists Discover the Brain Signature that Sets Creative Thinkers Apart | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

One of the most important aspects of innovation is creativity. But the trait has been elusive. How on earth do you generate it? Stories of artists regale us with bizarre methods. For instance, Salvador Dali would nap in a chair with his keys dangling over a metal plate. Once he relaxed enough to let go of the keys, they’d go crashing down onto the plate, rousing him from his slumber, his dream still fresh in his mind. Dali would then rush to capture the memory of his dream.

 

Russian-American composer Igor Stravinsky had an altogether different but no less bizarre method. He would stand on his head, in a way taught to him by a Hungarian gymnast. The act, he claimed, would “clear his brain.” While inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu who had 3,000 patents to his name—including the floppy disc—would go on dives and wait beneath the waves for inspiration to come, which he said often arrived “just 0.5 seconds before death.”

We don’t get progress on technology or the arts without creativity. And yet, artists and inventors have had such varying and oftentimes outlandish methods that neuroscientists have wondered whether or not there are certain uniform patterns associated with the creative state. Due to its centrality, such scientists have argued whether they can decipher creativity, or boost it in a methodical way. This latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests we can.

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The Most Amazing Optical Illusions and Explanations How They Work

The Most Amazing Optical Illusions and Explanations How They Work | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Optical illusions harness the shift between what your eyes see and what your brain perceives. They reveal the way your visual system edits images before you're even made aware of them like a personal assistant, deciding what is and isn't worthy of your attention.

 

People were creating optical illusions long before we knew what made them work. Today, advances in neuroscience have pinpointed the visual processes that fool your brain into falling for many of them. Others still elude explanation. Here, a selection of eye- and brain-boggling illusions, and explanations of how they work.

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3D map of mouse neurons reveals complex connections

3D map of mouse neurons reveals complex connections | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Reconstructions of single cells highlight how far they can reach into the brain.

 

The 70 million neurons in the mouse brain look like a tangled mess, but researchers are beginning to unravel the individual threads that carry messages across the organ. A 3D brain map released on 27 October, called MouseLight, allows researchers to trace the paths of single neurons and could eventually reveal how the mind assembles information.

 

The map contains 300 neurons and researchers plan to add another 700 in the next year. “A thousand is just beginning to scratch the surface,” says Nelson Spruston, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

 

To create the maps, Spruston and HHMI neuroscientist Jayaram Chandrashekar injected mouse brains with viruses that infect only a few cells at a time, prompting them to produce fluorescent proteins1. The team made the organs transparent using a sugar-alcohol treatment to obtain an unobstructed view of the glowing neurons, and then scanned each brain with a high-resolution microscope. Computer programs created 3D models of the glowing neurons and their projections, called axons, which can be half a meterlong and branch like a tree.

 

MouseLight has already revealed new information, including the surprisingly extensive number of brain regions that a single axon can reach. For instance, four neurons associated with taste stretch into the region that controls movement and another area related to touch. Chandrashekar says the group is now working on identifying which genes each neuron expresses, which will help to pin down their function.

 

 

“This is a tremendous project,” says Hongkui Zeng, a molecular biologist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, who plans to collaborate with the Janelia group on MouseLight. The Janelia technique is similar to one that Zeng and her colleagues developed using a line of mice genetically engineered so that a certain drug activates glowing proteins in a handful of their neurons.

 

MouseLight is just one of several methods being used to reconstruct individual neurons, says Rafael Yuste, a neurobiologist at Columbia University in New York City. Accurately labelling neurons with markers such as fluorescence, he says, will probably be the key challenge in the eventual goal of creating a “census” of different cell types in the brain.


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Navigational View of the Brain Thanks to Powerful X-Rays

Navigational View of the Brain Thanks to Powerful X-Rays | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
How the brain computes can arguably be best studied on the "meso" scale, and new imaging makes brain tissue visible on that level.

 

If brain imaging could be compared to Google Earth, neuroscientists would already have a pretty good “satellite view” of the brain, and a great “street view” of neuron details. But navigating how the brain computes is arguably where the action is, and neuroscience’s “navigational map view” has been a bit meager.

 

Now, a research team led by Eva Dyer, a computational neuroscientist and electrical engineer, has imaged brains at that map-like or “meso” scale using the most powerful X-ray beams in the country. The imaging scale gives an overview of the intercellular landscape of the brain at a level relevant to small neural networks, which are at the core of the brain’s ability to compute.

 

Dyer, who recently joined the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, also studies how the brain computes via its signaling networks, and this imaging technique could someday open new windows onto how they work.

 

A powerful X-ray tomography scanner allowed the researchers to image particularly thick sections of the brains of mice, which afforded them views into intact neural areas much larger than are customary in microscope imaging. The scanner operated on the same basic principle as a hospital CT scanner, but this scan used high-energy X-ray photons generated in a synchrotron, a facility the size of dozens of football fields.

 

"Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) generates the highest-energy X-ray beams in the country at its synchrotron," said Dyer, who co-led the study with ANL's Bobby Kasthuri at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron. "They've studied all kinds of materials with really powerful X-rays. Then they got interested in studying the brain."

 

The technique also revealed capillary grids interlacing brain tissues. They dominated the images, with cell bodies of brain cells evenly speckling capillaries like pebbles in a steel wool sponge.

"Our brain cells are embedded in this sea of vasculature," said Dyer, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

 

The study on the new images appeared in the journal eNeuro on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. The team included researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Pennsylvania. The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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New imaging approach maps whole-brain changes from Alzheimer's disease in mice

New imaging approach maps whole-brain changes from Alzheimer's disease in mice | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. 

 

Optical visualization of pathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can facilitate exploration of disease mechanisms and treatments. However, existing optical imaging methods have limitations on mapping pathological evolution in the whole mouse brain. Previous research indicated endogenous fluorescence contrast of senile plaques. Therefore, it is important to develop cryo-micro-optical sectioning tomography (cryo-MOST) to capture intrinsic fluorescence distribution of senile plaques at a micrometer-level resolution in the whole brain. Validation using immunofluorescence demonstrates the capacity of cryo-MOST to visualize and distinguish senile plaques with competent sensitivity and spatial resolution. Compared with imaging in room temperature, cryo-MOST provides better signal intensity and signal-to-noise ratio. Using cryo-MOST, the inventors obtained whole-brain coronal distribution of senile plaques in a transgenic mouse without exogenous dye. Capable of label-free brainwide visualization of Alzheimer’s pathology, cryo-MOST may be potentially useful for understanding neurodegenerative disease mechanisms and evaluating drug efficacy.

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Brain Training Has No Effect on Decision-making or Cognitive Function

Brain Training Has No Effect on Decision-making or Cognitive Function | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

During the last decade, commercial brain-training programs have risen in popularity, offering people the hope of improving their cognitive abilities through the routine performance of various “brain games” that tap cognitive functions such as memory, attention and cognitive flexibility.

 

But a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania found that, not only did commercial brain training with Lumosity™ have no effect on decision-making, it also had no effect on cognitive function beyond practice effects on the training tasks.

 

The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

 

Seeking evidence for an intervention that could reduce the likelihood that people will engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or overeating, a team of researchers at Penn, co-led by Joseph Kable, PhD, the Baird Term associate professor in the department of Psychology in the School of Arts & Sciences, and Caryn Lerman, PhD, the vice dean for Strategic Initiatives and the John H. Glick professor in Cancer Research in the Perelman School of Medicine, examined whether, through the claimed beneficial effect on cognitive function, commercial brain training regimes could reduce individuals’ propensity to make risky or impulsive choices.

 

Lerman’s prior work had shown that engagement of brain circuits involved in self-control predicts whether people can refrain from smoking. This work provided the foundation for examining whether modulating these circuits through brain training could lead to behavior change. 

 

“Our motivation,” Kable said, “was that there are enough hints in the literature that cognitive training deserved a real, rigorous, full-scale test. Especially given the addiction angle, we're looking for things that will help people make the changes in their lives that they want to make, one of which is being more future-oriented.”

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Seeing the colored light: Bee brains open way for better cameras

Seeing the colored light: Bee brains open way for better cameras | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Cameras in drones and robots have trouble dealing with detecting color when the light is changing. But bees, it turns out, have a mechanism that solves this problem and that can be used to improve cameras.

 

New research into the way that honeybees see color could pave the way for more accurate cameras in phones, drones and robots.

Identifying color in complex outdoor environments is extremely difficult because the color of light is continuously changing.

Researchers in Melbourne, Australia, looked to see how honeybees solve this problem and discovered a totally new mechanism for processing color information.

 

The results of the work by academics at RMIT University, Monash University, University of Melbourne and Deakin University were published today in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

 

The project, supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant, was coordinated by Associate Professor Adrian Dyer at RMIT, who has been working with Professor Marcello Rosa at Monash University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function to solve this classic problem of how color vision works.


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Calcium-based MRI sensor enables high-sensitivity deep brain imaging

Calcium-based MRI sensor enables high-sensitivity deep brain imaging | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT neuroscientists have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor that allows them to monitor neural activity deep within the brain by tracking calcium ions.

 

Calcium ions are directly linked to neuronal firing at high resolution — unlike the changes in blood flow detected by functional MRI (fMRI), which provide only an indirectindication of neural activity. The new sensor can also monitor large areas, compared to fluorescent molecules, used to label calcium in the brain and image it with traditional microscopy, which is limited to small areas of the brain.

 

A calcium-based MRI sensor could allow researchers to link specific brain functions directly to specific neuron activity, and to determine how distant brain regions communicate with each other during particular tasks. The research is described in a paper in the April 30, 2018 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

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Dorothy R. Cook 's curator insight, May 4, 4:23 AM

Let your brain see you where you need to be in life already not where they say you are. If you can see it you can believe it and do what you have to until it arrives. Our children shall be returned or paid a high price for not being so if and when unjustly taken or walk away as part of a trick to destroy the parent or whomever but God decided not so. The price to the originator will be forever life changing. People we can rob God of more than tithes and offerings  we can rob God of vengeance to because vengeance belongs to God. Get out of God way stop Gods vengeance  blocking. Let go and let God have his way all up in it.

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Noninvasive spinal stimulation method enables paralyzed people to regain use of hands, study finds

Noninvasive spinal stimulation method enables paralyzed people to regain use of hands, study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The nonsurgical technique, developed by a UCLA-led team, allows them to turn doorknobs and open water bottles for the first time in years.

 

The ability to perform simple daily tasks can make a big difference in people’s lives, especially for those with spinal cord injuries. A UCLA-led team of scientists reports that six people with severe spinal cord injuries — three of them completely paralyzed — have regained use of their hands and fingers for the first time in years after undergoing a nonsurgical, noninvasive spinal stimulation procedure the researchers developed.

 

 

At the beginning of the study, three of the participants could not move their fingers at all, and none could turn a doorknob with one hand or twist a cap off a plastic water bottle. Each of them also had great difficulty using a cellphone. After only eight researcher-led training sessions with the spinal stimulation, all six individuals showed substantial improvements. The study participants had chronic and severe paralysis for more than one year, and some for more than 10 years.

 

From before the first session to the end of the last session, the participants improved their grip strength. “About midway through the sessions, I could open my bedroom door with my left hand for the first time since my injury and could open new water bottles, when previously someone else had to do this for me,” said Cecilia Villarruel, one of the participants, whose injury resulted from a car accident 13 years earlier. “Most people with a spinal cord injury say they just want to go to the bathroom like a normal person again,” she said. “Small accomplishments like opening jars, bottles and doors enable a level of independence and self-reliance that is quite satisfying, and have a profound effect on people’s lives.”

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Alter-Ego: Intelligence-augmentation device lets users ‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking

Alter-Ego: Intelligence-augmentation device lets users ‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT researchers have invented a system that allows someone to communicate silently and privately with a computer or the internet by simply thinking — without requiring any facial muscle movement.

 

The AlterEgo system consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular subvocalizations — saying words “in your head” in natural language. The signals are fed to a neural network that is trained to identify subvocalized words from these signals. Bone-conduction headphones also transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear to convey information to the user — privately and without interrupting a conversation. The device connects wirelessly to any external computing device via Bluetooth.

 

A silent, discreet, bidirectional conversation with machines

 

“Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?,” says Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab who led the development of the new system. Kapur is first author on an open-access paper on the research presented in March at the IUI ’18 23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces.

 

In one of the researchers’ experiments, subjects used the system to silently report opponents’ moves in a chess game and silently receive recommended moves from a chess-playing computer program. In another experiment, subjects were able to undetectably answer difficult computational problems, such as the square root of large numbers or obscure facts. The researchers achieved 92% median word accuracy levels, which is expected to improve.  “I think we’ll achieve full conversation someday,” Kapur said.

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DARPA-funded prosthetic memory system successful in humans, study finds

DARPA-funded prosthetic memory system successful in humans, study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering have demonstrated a neural prosthetic system that can improve a memory by “writing” information “codes” (based on a patient’s specific memory patterns) into the hippocampus of human subjects via an electrode implanted in the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved in making new memories).

 

In this pilot study, described in a paper published in Journal of Neural Engineering, epilepsy patients’ short-term memory performance showed a 35 to 37 percent improvement over baseline measurements, as shown in this video. The research, funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), offers evidence supporting pioneering research by USC scientist Theodore Berger, Ph.D. (a co-author of the paper), on an electronic system for restoring memory in rats (reported on KurzweilAI in 2011).

 

“This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain-cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better — an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss,” said the paper’s lead author Robert Hampson, Ph.D., professor of physiology/pharmacology and neurology at Wake Forest Baptist.

 

The study focused on improving episodic memory (information that is new and useful for a short period of time, such as where you parked your car on any given day) — the most common type of memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and head injury.

 

The researchers enrolled epilepsy patients at Wake Forest Baptist who were participating in a diagnostic brain-mapping procedure that used surgically implanted electrodes placed in various parts of the brain to pinpoint the origin of the patients’ seizures.

 

Developing a hippocampal neural prosthetic to facilitate human memory encoding and recall.

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Advanced artificial limbs mapped in the brain: The brain re-maps motor and sensory pathways

Advanced artificial limbs mapped in the brain: The brain re-maps motor and sensory pathways | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Targeted motor and sensory reinnervation (TMSR) is a surgical procedure on patients with amputations that reroutes residual limb nerves towards intact muscles and skin in order to fit them with a limb prosthesis allowing unprecedented control. By its nature, TMSR changes the way the brain processes motor control and somatosensory input; however the detailed brain mechanisms have never been investigated before and the success of TMSR prostheses will depend on our ability to understand the ways the brain re-maps these pathways. Now, EPFL scientists have used ultra-high field 7 Tesla fMRI to show how TMSR affects upper-limb representations in the brains of patients with amputations, in particular in primary motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex and regions processing more complex brain functions. The findings are published in Brain.

 

Targeted muscle and sensory reinnervation (TMSR) is used to improve the control of upper limb prostheses. Residual nerves from the amputated limb are transferred to reinnervate and activate new muscle targets. This way, a patient fitted with a TMSR prosthetic "sends" motor commands to the re-innervated muscles, where his or her movement intentions are decoded and sent to the prosthetic limb. On the other hand, direct stimulation of the skin over the re-innervated muscles is sent back to the brain, inducing touch perception on the missing limb.

 

But how does the brain encode and integrate such artificial touch and movements of the prosthetic limb? How does this impact our ability to better integrate and control prosthetics? Achieving and fine-tuning such control depends on knowing how the patient's brain re-maps various motor and somatosensory pathways in the motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex.


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Your brain can reveal who your true friends are: Study shows how similar neural responses predict friendships

Your brain can reveal who your true friends are: Study shows how similar neural responses predict friendships | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The brains of close friends react to the world in similar ways, so does this mean we form natural echo chambers?

 

You may have a lot of things in common with your friends and brain activity could be one of them. According to a new study that investigated the neural responses of those in real-world social networks, you are more likely to perceive the world in the same way your friends do and this can be seen in patterns of neural activity.

 

The investigation by scientists at Dartmouth College, published today inNature Communications, examined the brains of 42 first-year graduate students, monitoring their responses to a collection of video clips. What they found was that close friends within this group had the most similar neural activity patterns, followed by friends-of-friends, then friends-of-friends-of-friends. The less subjects identified as friends, the more different their neural responses tended to be.

 

"Neural responses to dynamic, naturalistic stimuli, like videos, can give us a window into people's unconstrained, spontaneous thought processes as they unfold,” says lead author Carolyn Parkinson, who at the time of the study was a postdoctoral fellow in psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth. “Our results suggest that friends process the world around them in exceptionally similar ways."

 

The 42 students were part of a 279-person cohort that filled out a survey to glean who they considered friends in the year group. The researchers gauged closeness based on mutually expressed friendships, and used this to estimate social distances between individuals. The selection of 42 subjects were each shown a range of videos, covering everything from politics to comedy, to elicit a variety of responses.

 

The fact friends tended to neurologically respond similarly suggests these people perceive the world in similar ways. “Whether we naturally gravitate towards people who perceive, think about and respond to things like we do or whether we become more similar over time, through shared experiences, we don't know,” notes Thalia Wheatley, co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth.

 
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Sandeep Gautam's curator insight, January 30, 11:08 PM
Friends show similar neural activity; also good to remember that it has been earlier shown that friends share more genes than would be expected by chance. 
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This AI can read your mind: AI software creates images based on pictures you are looking at

This AI can read your mind: AI software creates images based on pictures you are looking at | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Japanese scientists have create a creepy machine that can peer into your mind's eye with incredible accuracy. The AI studies electrical signals in the brain to work out exactly what images someone is looking at, and even thinking about.  The technology opens the door to strange future scenarios, such as those portrayed in the series 'Black Mirror', where anyone can record and playback their memories.

 

Chilling Black Mirror-style machine recreates the image you're thinking about by decoding your brain signals.  The breakthrough relies on neural networks, which try to simulate the way the brain works in order to learn.  These networks can be trained to recognize patterns in information - including speech, text data, or visual images - and are the basis for a large number of the developments in AI over recent years. They use input from the digital world to learn, with practical applications like Google's language translation services, Facebook's facial recognition software and Snapchat's image altering live filters. 

 

The Kyoto team's deep neural network was trained using 50 natural images and the corresponding fMRI results from volunteers who were looking at them. This recreated the images viewed by the volunteers. They then used a second type of AI called a deep generative network to check that they looked like real images, refining them to make them more recognizable. 

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Carlos Garcia Pando's comment, January 4, 5:26 AM
The exciting thing for me is that, to some extent, the same image produces the same type of recognisable response in different brains. Was Kant right about the "a priori" knowledge from our senses?
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If the Brain Cannot Decide, It Alternates the Possibilities: The Remarkable "Curvature Blindness" Illusion

If the Brain Cannot Decide, It Alternates the Possibilities: The Remarkable "Curvature Blindness" Illusion | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new optical illusion has been discovered, and it’s really quite striking. The strange effect is called the ‘curvature blindness’ illusion, and it’s described in a new paper from psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University, Japan. Here’s an example of the illusion: A series of wavy horizontal lines are shown. All of the lines have exactly the same curvature.

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Your Pun-Divided Attention: How the Brain Processes Wordplay

Your Pun-Divided Attention: How the Brain Processes Wordplay | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

To understand puns, the left and right brain hemispheres have to work together.

 

Puns are divisive in comedy. Critics groan that they are the “lowest form of wit,” a quote attributed to various writers. Others—including Shakespeare—pun with abandon. The brain itself seems divided over puns, according to a recent study published in Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. The results suggest the left and right hemispheres play different roles in processing puns, ultimately requiring communication between them for the joke to land.

 

To observe how the brain handles this type of humor, researchers at the University of Windsor in Ontario presented study participants with a word relating to a pun in either the left or right visual field (which corresponds to the right or left brain hemisphere, respectively). They then analyzed a subject's reaction time in each situation to determine which hemisphere was dominant. “The left hemisphere is the linguistic hemisphere, so it's the one that processes most of the language aspects of the pun, with the right hemisphere kicking in a bit later” to reveal the word's dual meanings, explains Lori Buchanan, a psychology professor and co-author of the study.

 

This interaction enables us to “get” the joke because puns, as a form of word play, complete humor's basic formula: expectation plus incongruity equals laughter. In puns—where words have multiple, ambiguous meanings—the sentence context primes us to interpret a word in a specific way, an operation that occurs in the left hemisphere. Humor emerges when the right hemisphere subsequently clues us in to the word's other, unanticipated meaning, triggering what Buchanan calls a “surprise reinterpretation.”

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Whales and dolphins have rich 'human-like' cultures and societies

Whales and dolphins have rich 'human-like' cultures and societies | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Whales and dolphins (Cetaceans) live in tightly-knit social groups, have complex relationships, talk to each other and even have regional dialects - much like human societies.

 

A major new study, published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, has linked the complexity of Cetacean culture and behaviour to the size of their brains. The research was a collaboration between scientists at The University of Manchester, The University of British Columbia, Canada, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Stanford University, United States.

 

The study is first of its kind to create a large dataset of cetacean brain size and social behaviors. The team compiled information on 90 different species of dolphins, whales, and porpoises. It found overwhelming evidence that Cetaceans have sophisticated social and cooperative behavior traits, similar to many found in human culture.

 

The study demonstrates that these societal and cultural characteristics are linked with brain size and brain expansion—also known as encephalisation. The long list of behavioral similarities includes many traits shared with humans and other primates such as:

  • complex alliance relationships - working together for mutual benefit
  • social transfer of hunting techniques - teaching how to hunt and using tools
  • cooperative hunting
  • complex vocalizations, including regional group dialects - 'talking' to each other
  • vocal mimicry and 'signature whistles' unique to individuals - using 'name' recognition
  • interspecific cooperation with humans and other species - working with different species
  • alloparenting - looking after youngsters that aren't their own
  • social play

 

Dr Susanne Shultz, an evolutionary biologist in Manchester's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: "As humans, our ability to socially interact and cultivate relationships has allowed us to colonize almost every ecosystem and environment on the planet. We know whales and dolphins also have exceptionally large and anatomically sophisticated brains and, therefore, have created a similar marine based culture. "That means the apparent co-evolution of brains, social structure, and behavioral richness of marine mammals provides a unique and striking parallel to the large brains and hyper-sociality of humans and other primates on land. Unfortunately, they won't ever mimic our great metropolises and technologies because they didn't evolve opposable thumbs."

 

The team used the dataset to test the social brain hypothesis (SBH) and cultural brain hypothesis (CBH). The SBH and CBH are evolutionary theories originally developed to explain large brains in primates and land mammals. They argue that large brains are an evolutionary response to complex and information-rich social environments. However, this is the first time these hypotheses have been applied to 'intelligent' marine mammals on such a large scale.

 

Dr Michael Muthukrishna, Assistant Professor of Economic Psychology at LSE, added: "This research isn't just about looking at the intelligence of whales and dolphins, it also has important anthropological ramifications as well. In order to move toward a more general theory of human behavior, we need to understand what makes humans so different from other animals. And to do this, we need a control group. Compared to primates, cetaceans are a more "alien" control group."

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Computer approaches human skill for first time in mapping brain

Computer approaches human skill for first time in mapping brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A WSU research team for the first time has developed a computer algorithm that is nearly as accurate as people are at mapping brain neural networks—a breakthrough that could speed up the image analysis that researchers use to understand brain circuitry.

 

For more than a generation, people have been trying to improve understanding of human brain circuitry, but are challenged by its vast complexity. It is similar to having a satellite image of the earth and trying to map out 100 billion homes, all of the connecting streets and everyone's destinations, said Shuiwang Ji, associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and lead researcher on the project.

 

Researchers, in fact, took more than a decade to fully map the circuitry of just one animal's brain—a worm that has only 302 neurons. The human brain, meanwhile, has about 100 billion neurons, and the amount of data needed to fully understand its circuitry would require 1000 exabytes of data, or the equivalent of all the data that is currently available in the world.

 

To map neurons, researchers currently use an electron microscope to take pictures—with one image usually containing a small number of neurons. The researchers then study each neuron's shape and size as well as its thousands of connections with other nearby neurons to learn about its role in behavior or biology.

 

"We don't know much about how brains work," said Ji. With such rudimentary understanding of our circuitry, researchers are limited in their ability to understand the causes of devastating brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism or Parkinson's disease, he said. Instead, they have to rely on trial and error experimentation to come up with treatments. The National Academy of Engineering has listed improving understanding of the human brain as one of its grand challenges for the 21st century.

 

In 2013, MIT organized a competition that called on researchers to develop automated computer algorithms that could speed up image analysis, decode and understand images of brain circuitry.

 

As part of the competition, the algorithms are compared to work that was done by a real team of neuroscientists. If computers can become as accurate as humans, they will be able to do the computations much faster and cheaper than humans, said Ji.

 

WSU's research team developed the first computational model that was able to reach a human level of performance in accuracy.

Just as a human eye takes in information and then analyzes it in multiple stages, the WSU team developed acomputational model that takes the image as its input and then processes it in a many-layered network before coming to a decision. In their algorithm, the researchers developed an artificial neural network that imitates humans' complex biological neural networks.

 

While the WSU research team was able to approach human accuracy in the MIT challenge, they still have a lot of work to do in getting the computers to develop complete and accurate neural maps. The computers still make a large number of mistakes, and there is not yet a gold standard for comparing human and computational results, said Ji. Although it may not be realistic to expect that automated methods would completely replace human soon, improvements in computational methods will certainly lead to reduced manual proof-reading, he added.

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How to map the circuits and understand how tangles of neurons produce complex behaviors

How to map the circuits and understand how tangles of neurons produce complex behaviors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Neuroscientists want to understand how tangles of neurons produce complex behaviors, but even the simplest networks defy understanding.

 

Marta Zlatic owns what could be the most tedious film collection ever. In her laboratory at the Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, the neuroscientist has stored more than 20,000 hours of black-and-white video featuring fruit-fly (Drosophila) larvae. The stars of these films are doing mundane maggoty things, such as wriggling and crawling about, but the footage is helping to answer one of the biggest questions in modern neuroscience: how the circuitry of the brain creates behavior. It's a major goal across the field: to work out how neurons wire up, how signals move through the networks and how these signals work together to pilot an animal around, to make decisions or — in humans — to express emotions and create consciousness.

 

Even under the most humdrum conditions — “normal lighting; no sensory cues; they're not hungry”, says Zlatic — her fly larvae can be made to perform 30 different actions, including retracting or turning their heads, or rolling. The actions are generated by a brain comprising just 15,000 neurons. That is nothing compared with the 86 billion in a human brain, which is one of the reasons Zlatic and her teammates like the maggots so much.

 

 

“At the moment, really, the Drosophila larva is the sweet spot,” says Albert Cardona, Zlatic's collaborator and husband, who is also at Janelia. “If you can get the wiring diagram, you have an excellent starting point for seeing how the central nervous system works.”

Zlatic and Cardona lead two of the dozens of groups around the world that are generating detailed wiring diagrams for brains of model organisms. New tools and techniques for slicing up brains and tracing their connections have hastened progress over the past few years. And the resulting neural-network diagrams are yielding surprises — showing, for example, that a brain can use one network in multiple ways to create the same behaviors.

 

But understanding even the simplest of circuits — orders of magnitude smaller than those in Zlatic's maggots — presents a host of challenges. Circuits vary in layout and function from animal to animal. The systems have redundancy that makes it difficult to pin one function to one circuit. Plus, wiring alone doesn't fully explain how circuits generate behaviors; other factors, such as neurochemicals, have to be considered. “I try to avoid using the word 'understand',” says Florian Engert, who is putting together an atlas of the zebrafish brain at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “What do you even mean when you say you understand how something works? If you map it out, you haven't really understood anything.”

 

Still, scientists are beginning to detect patterns in simple circuits that may operate in more complex brains. “This is what we hope,” says Willie Tobin, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts: “that we can come across general principles that can help us understand larger systems.”

 
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