In labs testing how brain implants could help people with physical disabilities, tales of success can be bittersweet. Experiments like those that let a paralyzed person swig coffee using a robotic arm, or that let blind people "see" spots of light, have proven the huge potential of computers that interface with the brain. But the implanted electrodes used in such trials eventually become useless, as scar tissue forms that degrades their electrical connection to brain cells (see "The Thought Experiment"). Next month, tests will begin in monkeys of a new implant for piping data into the brain that is designed to avoid that problem. The project is intended to lead to devices that can restore vision to blind people long-term.
Research on brain implants has exploded in recent years. With the right mechanisms, they have the potential to help people with everything from paralysis and Parkinson's disease to certain types of eye damage and blindness. These implants, which are surgically inserted into the cortex of the brain, work by stimulating neurons that then target specific cells throughout the body. But until recently, many of these brain implants have been electrode-based, relying on conductivity between the metal plate, the implant, and the nerves around it. These devices often become less effective overtime, and the metal plates can (and often do) corrode.
When Elon Musk and DARPA both hop aboard the cyborg hypetrain, you know brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) are about to achieve the impossible. BMIs, already the stuff of science fiction, facilitate crosstalk between biological wetware with external computers, turning human users into literal cyborgs. Yet mind-controlled robotic arms, microelectrode "nerve patches", or "memory Band-Aids" are still purely experimental medical treatments for those with nervous system impairments. With the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, DARPA is looking to expand BMIs to the military. This month, the project tapped six academic teams to engineer radically different BMIs to hook up machines to the brains of able-bodied soldiers.
Evidence of humanity's lost'sixth sense' may have been found. Joe Kirschvink, a researcher from the California Institute of Technology, claims to have confirmation that humans can subconsciously detect Earth's magnetic field. Using a Faraday cage and EEG monitor, Kirschvink observed reproducible changes in human alpha brain waves when adjustments were made to the magnetic field around them. Joe Kirschvink, researcher from California Institute of Technology, claims to have confirmation that humans can detect Earth's magnetic field. During the trial, Joe Kirschvink and his team built a Faraday cage to test the ability in humans, which is an aluminium box that blocks out electromagnetic background noise using wire coils.
Physicists from Petrozavodsk State University have proposed a new method for oscillatory neural network to recognize simple images. Such networks with an adjustable synchronous state of individual neurons have, presumably, dynamics similar to neurons in the living brain. AN oscillatory neural network is a complex interlacing of interacting elements (oscillators) that are able to receive and transmit oscillations of a certain frequency. Receiving signals of various frequencies from preceding elements, the artificial neuron oscillator can synchronize its rhythm with these fluctuations. As a result, in the network, some of the elements are synchronized with each other (periodically and simultaneously activated), and other elements are not synchronized.