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A neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird

Science

Humans have tended to believe that we are the only species to possess certain traits, behaviors, or abilities, especially with regard to cognition. Occasionally, we extend such traits to primates or other mammals—species with which we share fundamental brain similarities. Over time, more and more of these supposed pillars of human exceptionalism have fallen. Nieder et al. now argue that the relationship between consciousness and a standard cerebral cortex is another fallen pillar (see the Perspective by Herculano-Houzel). Specifically, carrion crows show a neuronal response in the palliative end brain during the performance of a task that correlates with their perception of a stimulus. Such activity might be a broad marker for consciousness. Science , this issue p. [1626][1]; see also p. [1567][2] Subjective experiences that can be consciously accessed and reported are associated with the cerebral cortex. Whether sensory consciousness can also arise from differently organized brains that lack a layered cerebral cortex, such as the bird brain, remains unknown. We show that single-neuron responses in the pallial endbrain of crows performing a visual detection task correlate with the birds’ perception about stimulus presence or absence and argue that this is an empirical marker of avian consciousness. Neuronal activity follows a temporal two-stage process in which the first activity component mainly reflects physical stimulus intensity, whereas the later component predicts the crows’ perceptual reports. These results suggest that the neural foundations that allow sensory consciousness arose either before the emergence of mammals or independently in at least the avian lineage and do not necessarily require a cerebral cortex. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abb1447 [2]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe0536


3D-printed brain implant 'could be used to treat human patients with paralysis'

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Scientists are creating 3D-printed brain chips which could be used to treat nervous system conditions, including paralysis, by detecting and firing electrical signals. The chip has been developed and successfully tested on animals, and researchers are now hopeful it can be adapted for use in humans. It will also be able to connect to a computer and offer a host of next-generation medical benefits, scientists say. Linking the human brain to a computer is usually the work of science fiction writers and filmmakers, but moves are underway to make the technology a reality. Last month, Elon Musk hosted a high-profile event where he spoke about the developments with his own version of brain chip technology, Neuralink.


Tempus fugit: How time flies during development

Science

“Fugit irreparabile tempus,” wrote Virgil, a reminder that our lives are defined by the irreversible flow of time. As soon as the egg is fertilized, embryonic cells follow a developmental program strictly organized in time. The sequence typically is conserved throughout evolution, but individual events can occur over species-specific time scales. Such differences can have marked effects. For instance, it takes 3 months to generate cerebral cortex neurons in a human but only 1 week in a mouse. This prolonged neurogenesis likely contributes to evolutionary expansion of the human brain ([ 1 ][1]). But the mechanisms underlying developmental time scales remain largely unknown. On pages 1449 and 1450 of this issue, Rayon et al. ([ 2 ][2]) and Matsuda et al. ([ 3 ][3]), respectively, report an association between species-specific developmental time scales and the speed of biochemical reactions that support protein turnover. Cell differentiation during mammalian development uses two types of timing mechanisms (biological clocks) based on oscillations or unidirectional processes (hourglass clocks). Modeling development in pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) from various species shows that the pace of differentiation of many cell types in an in vitro setting largely recapitulates the species-specific timing observed in embryos ([ 4 ][4], [ 5 ][5]). Even when human neurons are transplanted as single cells in a mouse brain, they follow their own prolonged developmental timeline ([ 6 ][6]). This suggests that cell-intrinsic mechanisms, yet to be discovered, dictate the timing of developmental trajectories in a species-specific manner. Matsuda et al. examined a biological rhythm typical of vertebrate embryos: the “somite segmentation clock,” by which the body is built segment (or somite) by segment, thanks to waves of expression of specific genes (oscillations) in presomitic mesodermal (PSM) cells. Using in vitro modeling with mouse and human PSCs, the authors examined waves of expression of HES7 (hes family bHLH transcription factor 7), a segmental-clock master gene. They found similar waves in PSM cells of both species, but the period of oscillations in human cells was ∼5 hours instead of 2 hours (as in mouse cells), consistent with another recent report ([ 7 ][7]). What might underlie such cell-intrinsic differences? Evolutionary divergence in developmental processes usually occurs as a result of changes in the gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that control them ([ 8 ][8]). The authors examined the GRN of segmental oscillations, and except for the period of oscillation, they found no obvious difference between human and mouse gene expression. They then swapped the mouse and human genome sequences containing the HES7 locus. The human HES7 gene transplanted in mouse cells displayed fast oscillations like the mouse gene, whereas the mouse gene transplanted in the human cells displayed slower, human-like oscillations (see the figure). Thus, even DNA cis-regulatory components of the GRN do not appear to dictate the time scale of HES7 oscillations. However, Matsuda et al. found important species-specific differences in a different mechanism: the speed of biochemical reactions leading to protein turnover (production and decay). Human cells displayed slower kinetics of protein expression (including “expression delays” related to RNA transcription, splicing, and translation) and a slower rate of protein decay, mostly related to degradation. Many examined parameters showed a twofold difference in mouse versus human cells, matching the time differences observed for the segmentation clock. ![Figure][9] Same events, distinct timingGRAPHIC: KELLIE HOLOSKI/ SCIENCE Rather than being dominated by clocklike oscillations, the developmental process is specified mostly by cell-fate transitions, by which embryonic cells gradually an d irreversibly become differentiated cells. Could it be that similar mechanisms regulate these hourglass-like timing events as well? Rayon et al. explored this notion using a motor neuron (MN) developmental model from mouse and human PSCs. Examination of MN development in vitro revealed that the underlying GRN is similar in both species, except that human motoneurogenesis takes 2.5 times longer in the human cell model versus the mouse. The authors then examined the influence of sonic hedgehog, the key morphogen that induces MN fate (by changing timing and intensity of the signal), and the MN-development master gene OLIG2 (oligodendrocyte transcription factor 2) (by inserting the human gene in mouse cells) but found no effects that explained the species-specific time differences. They then analyzed protein stability during MN development and found that the mean protein half-life was doubled in human cells compared with mouse cells, which is consistent with the findings of Matsuda et al. Both studies point to protein turnover as a potential source of variation in developmental time scales. Each group tested this hypothesis further by in silico modeling of their experimental systems, which predicted, in each case, a prominent influence of the delay in protein production and protein decay on developmental time scales. That protein turnover affects the timing of development is provocative and attractive but must be validated by experimental evidence for causal relationship between the two (by altering the production and decay of proteins and mRNA, and then examining the developmental time scale). Such experiments will also help to determine the respective contributions of expression delay versus protein decay, on which each study puts a somewhat different emphasis. The consistent results from both studies also raise questions about the mechanisms upstream of interspecies differences in protein turnover. Metabolism is an attractive candidate. Protein turnover requires a considerable amount of energy ([ 9 ][10]), and metabolic rewiring has emerged as a central instructor of cell fate transitions ([ 10 ][11]), although through epigenetic remodeling rather than changes in proteostasis. Another question is whether the same principles apply to developmental events that display more pronounced time scale differences. For example, GRN divergence might operate through specific genes that modulate the timing of human cortical neurogenesis ([ 11 ][12]). Furthermore, metabolism and protein turnover might display differences depending on the cell context or the specific protein involved. And known correlations between developmental timing, life span, and aging across species ([ 12 ][13]) might all be causally linked to differences in metabolism and protein turnover. 1. [↵][14]1. A. M. M. Sousa et al ., Cell 170, 226 (2017). [OpenUrl][15][CrossRef][16][PubMed][17] 2. [↵][18]1. T. Rayon et al ., Science 369, eaba7667 (2020). [OpenUrl][19][Abstract/FREE Full Text][20] 3. [↵][21]1. M. Matsuda et al ., Science 369, 1450 (2020). [OpenUrl][22][Abstract/FREE Full Text][23] 4. [↵][24]1. J. van den Ameelen et al ., Trends Neurosci. 37, 334 (2014). [OpenUrl][25][CrossRef][26][PubMed][27] 5. [↵][28]1. M. Ebisuya, 2. J. Briscoe , Development 145, dev164368 (2018). [OpenUrl][29][Abstract/FREE Full Text][30] 6. [↵][31]1. D. Linaro et al ., Neuron 104, 972 (2019). [OpenUrl][32] 7. [↵][33]1. M. Diaz-Cuadros et al ., Nature 580, 113 (2020). [OpenUrl][34][CrossRef][35][PubMed][36] 8. [↵][37]1. E. H. Davidson, 2. D. H. Erwin , Science 311, 796 (2006). [OpenUrl][38][Abstract/FREE Full Text][39] 9. [↵][40]1. J. Labbadia, 2. R. I. Morimoto , Annu. Rev. Biochem. 84, 435 (2015). [OpenUrl][41][CrossRef][42][PubMed][43] 10. [↵][44]1. N. Shyh-Chang et al ., Development 140, 2535 (2013). [OpenUrl][45][Abstract/FREE Full Text][46] 11. [↵][47]1. I. K. Suzuki et al ., Cell 173, 1370 (2018). [OpenUrl][48][CrossRef][49][PubMed][50] 12. [↵][51]1. A. A. Fushan et al ., Aging Cell 14, 352 (2015). [OpenUrl][52][CrossRef][53][PubMed][54] Acknowledgments: P.V. is funded by the European Research Council, Belgian Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Excellence of Science Research programme, AXA Research Fund, Belgian Queen Elizabeth Foundation, and Fondation Université Libre de Bruxelles. R.I. was supported by the Belgian Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique. 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Neuralink: 3 neuroscientists react to Elon Musk's brain chip reveal

#artificialintelligence

What does the future look like for humans and machines? Elon Musk would argue that it involves wiring brains directly up to computers – but neuroscientists tell Inverse that's easier said than done. On August 28, Musk and his team unveiled the latest updates from secretive firm Neuralink with a demo featuring pigs implanted with their brain chip device. These chips are called Links, and they measure 0.9 inches wide by 0.3 inches tall. They connect to the brain via wires, and provide a battery life of 12 hours per charge, after which the user would need to wirelessly charge again.


Scientists skeptical of Musk's claims about Neuralink brain chip

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Elon Musk gave the first look of Neuralink's'Link' device Friday, saying'it will blow your mind' – but many who tuned into the livestream are saying just the opposite. Leading up to the demonstration, Musk promised to show neurons firing in a living brain, leading many to believe a human would be the subject – but instead viewers saw the brain activity of a pig. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO also made claims that the device will one-day cure debilitating illnesses and mental disorders, along with creating a brain-computer interface. MIT Review released its take on Neuralink's unveiling saying that although Musk proposes a long list of medical applications, the firm did not show it is ready to take on such a feat nor did it specify any plans for clinical trials. Neuroscientists also criticized the technology because recording neural signals is'decades old,' while the public is sure the billionaire is taking Netflix's series'Black Mirror' too seriously.


Who Is Elon Musk's New Brain-Computer Interface For?

Slate

On Friday, Elon Musk's company Neuralink introduced the world to three pigs who seemed indistinguishable. Yet Gertrude, who was both shy and stubborn, had a secret: Two months prior, her brain had been implanted with Neuralink's newest version of a brain-computer interface, or BCI. She looked just like another pig with no such device and a third who had had a similar device in and then removed. As Gertrude walked around doing pig things, viewers saw a display of her real-time brain activity. "If the device is lasting in the pig, as it lasted in there for two months and going strong, then that's a good sign the device is robust for people," Musk said.


Brain-Computer Interfaces Show Promise for Military Use

#artificialintelligence

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has invested in the development of technologies that allow the human brain to communicate directly with machines, including the development of implantable neural interfaces able to transfer data between the human brain and the digital world. This technology, known as brain-computer interface (BCI), may eventually be used to monitor a soldier's cognitive workload, control a drone swarm, or link with a prosthetic, among other examples. Further technological advances could support human-machine decisionmaking, human-to-human communication, system control, performance enhancement and monitoring, and training. However, numerous policy, safety, legal, and ethical issues should be evaluated before the technology is widely deployed. With this report, the authors developed a methodology for studying potential applications for emerging technology. This included developing a national security game to explore the use of BCI in combat scenarios; convening experts in military operations, human performance, and neurology to explore how the technology might affect military tactics, which aspects may be most beneficial, and which aspects might present risks; and offering recommendations to policymakers.


Elon Musk wants YOU to build a brain-computer interface

The Japan Times

New York – Elon Musk isn't content with electric cars, shooting people into orbit, populating Mars and building underground tunnels to solve traffic problems. He also wants to get inside your brain. His startup, Neuralink, wants to one day implant computer chips inside the human brain. The goal is to develop implants that can treat neural disorders -- and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers. In a video demonstration Friday explicitly aimed at recruiting new employees, Musk showed off a prototype of the device.


Elon Musk wants YOU to build a brain-computer interface

#artificialintelligence

Elon Musk isn't content with electric cars, shooting people into orbit, populating Mars and building underground tunnels to solve traffic problems. He also wants to get inside your brain. His startup, Neuralink, wants to one day implant computer chips inside the human brain. The goal is to develop implants that can treat neural disorders -- and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers. In a video demonstration Friday explicitly aimed at recruiting new employees, Musk showed off a prototype of the device.


Elon Musk is demonstrating his Neuralink implant, which connects your brain to a computer

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Elon Musk has long envisioned a system that merges humans with computers and after nearly five years of work, the world may soon see that dream become a reality. Musk's secretive Neuralink startup plans to demonstrate a working'device' at 6pm ET, Friday, claiming it will show off its brain chip that aims to help humans from being outpaced by artificial intelligence. Along with enabling'symbiosis' between man and machine, the firm says the technology is designed to treat brain injuries and trauma. Neuralink's system is comprised of a computer chip attached to tiny flexible threads that are stitched into the brain by a'sewing-machine-like' robot. The device is said to pick up signals in the brain, which are then translated into motor controls – and the firm'will show neurons firing in real time' this evening.