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Brain-computer interfaces like Elon Musk's Neuralink at risk

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Elon Musk plans to link human brains to computers using tiny implants, but a new report warns the implants could leave us vulnerable to hackers. Speaking with Zdnet, Experts said cybercriminals can access these brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to erase your skills and read thoughts or memories – a breach worse than any other system. To make the technology secure, systems need to'ensure that no unauthorized person can modify their functionality.' This could mean using similar security protocols found in smartphones such as encryption to antivirus software. Musk has been working on his startup Neuralink since 2016, which he says will one-day human brains to computers in order to avoid our species from being outpaced by artificial intelligence.

Elon Musk claims his mysterious brain chip will allow people to hear previously impossible sounds

The Independent - Tech

Elon Musk has revealed more details about his mysterious brain-computer interface startup, claiming it will allow people to hear sounds that were previously beyond their range. Neuralink's brain chip technology could also help restore movement to someone with a fully severed spinal cord, according to Musk. The SpaceX and Tesla boss founded Neuralink in 2016 but has only held one major public presentation about how its technology will actually work. The ultimate aim is to provide a direct connection between a brain and a computer, using a "sewing machine-like" device to stitch threads to an implanted brain chip. A research paper published last year in conjunction with the event explained how these threads would connect to a single USB-C cable to provide "full-bandwidth data streaming" to the brain.

Evolution of the human brain


Since early hominids emerged 5 million years ago, humans have evolved sizable brains to support higher cognitive functions. In particular, the human cerebral cortex is greatly expanded, allowing accommodation of the evolutionary increases in the number of cortical areas, the functional modules that subserve perception, attention, motor control, cognition, memory, and learning. Duplicated genes specific to the Homo lineage have played key roles in human speciation, particularly in the development of the highly complex human brain ([ 1 ][1]) and the circuits of the cerebral cortex ([ 2 ][2]). On page 546 of this issue, Heide et al. ([ 3 ][3]) identify ARHGAP11B [Rho guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) activating protein 11B], a human-specific duplicated gene, as a regulator of human cerebral cortex development. By expressing ARHGAP11B in marmosets, a smooth-brained primate, this study explores the influence of the gene on expansion of the primate cortex. The human neocortex is marked by an important increase in surface area and its radial dimension, the latter due to the selective enlargement of the supragranular layers ([ 4 ][4]). Supragranular neurons have an important role in the integration of ascending and descending cortico-cortical pathways that underlie information transfer and processing between the numerous hierarchically organized cortical areas in primates. Therefore, the specific expansion of supragranular neurons contributes to the cognitive functions of primates, culminating in humans ([ 4 ][4]). Much of the origin of this expansion can be attributed to primate-specific features of corticogenesis, including an expanded progenitor pool in the developing primate cerebral cortex: the outer subventricular zone (OSVZ ) ([ 5 ][5]), which includes specialized progenitors called basal radial glial cells (bRGs) ([ 6 ][6]). bRGs are endowed with extensive proliferative capacities and generate mostly supragranular neurons ([ 7 ][7]). ARHGAP11B has received much attention because it is specifically enriched in cortical bRGs ([ 8 ][8]). When locally overexpressed in mouse or ferret cortex, ARHGAP11B boosts bRG proliferation and increases the numbers of cortical neurons ([ 8 ][8], [ 9 ][9]). These observations suggest that this gene could link specific aspects of primate corticogenesis and characteristic features of the adult primate cortex architecture. To test this, Heide et al. expressed ARHGAP11B in the developing cortex of the embryonic marmoset. When ARHGAP11B is expressed under the control of the human promoter and upstream regulatory sequences, the transgenic midgestation marmoset exhibits an enlarged developing cortex with signs of folding. The crucial observation is that there is a selective increase in the numbers of neurons in the supragranular layers. This “humanization” of the marmoset fetal cortex demonstrates that expression of ARHGAP11B in bRGs in a primate substrate has the capacity to contribute to neocortical expansion and supragranular complexification during human evolution. ARHGAP11B -induced expansion of the cortical progenitor pool is mediated by metabolic changes in mitochondria, particularly increased glutaminolysis, a characteristic of highly mitotically active cells ([ 10 ][10]). This illustrates how cell metabolism—one of the most ancient of biological networks—participates in shaping the human lineage. ![Figure][11] Shaping the human cortex Heide et al. show that ARHGAP11B [Rho guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) activating protein 11B] boosts proliferation in the outer subventricular zone, leading to increased production of cells destined for the supragranular layers. The counterstream architecture of the supragranular layers comprises feedback projections carrying top-down signals (blue arrows) that interact with feedforward projections (red arrows) carrying bottom-up sensory signals. The integration of these two pathways into the local microcircuit is a key feature of hierarchical processing in the primate cortex and will be favored by increased numbers of supragranular neurons. GRAPHIC: MELISSA THOMAS BAUM/ SCIENCE How does the increased rate of supragranular neuron production, resulting from ARHGAP11B expression in OSVZ progenitors, affect the functional architecture of the cortex? And do these effects provide evolutionary insights? In the cortical hierarchy, areas are linked by a dense network of ascending (or bottom-up) and descending (or top-down) pathways forming a highly distributed hierarchy ([ 11 ][12]). Current theories of hierarchical processing of information in the cortex, including predictive coding theory, postulate that top-down messages signaling expectations interact in the supragranular layers with bottom-up activity from the sensory periphery, thereby enabling the brain to actively infer the causes of sensory stimulus ([ 12 ][13]). Recent structural analysis reveals that in the supragranular layers, top-down and bottom-up connections form two opposing streams, thereby constituting a counterstream architecture ([ 11 ][12]) (see the figure). During evolution, there is a marked increase in the numbers of cortical areas, so that larger numbers of human supragranular neurons are required to integrate corticocortical circuits compared to non-human primates. In addition, because of the specific coding properties of the supragranular layers, increases in the number of supragranular neurons are expected to increase the circuit efficiency of these layers ([ 13 ][14]), which, along with their complexification ([ 14 ][15]), could drive gains in computational power and the capacity to integrate topdown and bottom-up signals. The architecture of the primate brain has therefore evolved for the computational mechanisms that affect human perception and sense of self; this also has implications for the evolution of memory and learning. The findings of Heide et al. illuminate how a molecular mechanism driving cortical development can scale up phylogenetically ancestral primate brains to the complexity of the human brain. ARHGAP11B-mediated humanization of the marmoset fetal cortex demonstrates the involvement of a human-specific duplicated gene in the expansion of the supragranular layers. The effect of ARHGAP11B expression on OSVZ progenitors and their cortical progeny reinforces the importance of recent findings showing that human-specific regulatory elements are enriched in the OSVZ and the adult supragranular layers ([ 15 ][16]). Together with the role of SRGAP2 (Slit-Robo-GTPase activating protein 2), a human-specific duplicated gene that acts on cortical neuron complexity and synaptic circuitry ([ 2 ][2]), these findings point to crucial evolutionary adaptations converging on the cardinal structural features of the human cortex that underlie its unrivaled computational and cognitive performance. Future studies will need to address the effect of ARHGAP11B expression at different time points in corticogenesis, its potential role in determining human specific cell types in the brain, and its intersection with the etiology of neurological disorders ([ 4 ][4], [ 14 ][15], [ 15 ][16]). 1. [↵][17]1. M. Y. Dennis, 2. E. E. Eichler , Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 41, 44 (2016). [OpenUrl][18][CrossRef][19][PubMed][20] 2. [↵][21]1. C. Charrier et al ., Cell 149, 923 (2012). [OpenUrl][22][CrossRef][23][PubMed][24] 3. [↵][25]1. M. Heide et al ., Science 369, 546 (2020). [OpenUrl][26][CrossRef][27][PubMed][28] 4. [↵][29]1. A. M. M. Sousa, 2. K. A. Meyer, 3. G. Santpere, 4. F. O. Gulden, 5. N. Sestan , Cell 170, 226 (2017). [OpenUrl][30][CrossRef][31][PubMed][32] 5. [↵][33]1. I. H. Smart, 2. C. Dehay, 3. P. Giroud, 4. M. Berland, 5. H. Kennedy , Cereb. Cortex 12, 37 (2002). [OpenUrl][34][CrossRef][35][PubMed][36][Web of Science][37] 6. [↵][38]1. D. V. Hansen, 2. J. H. Lui, 3. P. R. Parker, 4. A. 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Scientists are using brain-computer connections to restore a lost sense of touch


The complexity, and importance, of our sense of touch is huge. Just think about reaching out for a piece of fruit on the table – you need touch to know when your fingers have reached, you need to adjust your grip so you don't squeeze it too hard, or squeeze too softly and drop it. Touch can tell you if the fruit is ripe or past its best, whether its fridge-cold or it's been sitting on the counter. As well as all that, you need touch for good movement, and for fine movement like doing up a button, and the continuous feedback from the muscles in our feet is vital to keep us from stumbling. When brain computer interfaces (BCI) are mentioned, it's often in context of helping people with paralysed limbs start to move them again. But for those with spinal injuries, it's not just movement that's lost, it's also that sense of touch, as areas of their body are left completely without feeling.

Elon Musk claims Neuralink brain chip will be able to stream music directly into peoples' brains

Daily Mail - Science & tech

If Elon Musk's Neuralink brain implant succeeds, the word'headphones' may have a whole new meaning. In a Twitter exchange with computer scientist, Austin Howard, Musk, who funds a project called Neuralink that is developing a brain-implanted computer, said that the company's device will eventually be able to stream music directly into one's brain. 'If we implement neuralink - can we listen to music directly from our chips? Great feature,' Howard posted in a tweet on Sunday to which Musk replied simply, 'Yes.' If we implement neuralink - can we listen to music directly from our chips?

Elon Musk's brain chip could 're-train' area linked to depression

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Elon Musk is slowly releasing details about his secret brain chip startup Neuralink, but he recently shared the technology could help cure addiction and depression. The billionaire shared the news on Twitter following a user asking if the implant could're-train part of the brain' linked to the ailments. This is both great & terrifying,' Musk wrote in the response. Musk has kept a tight lid about the startup, but said he will reveal more about plans next month. Elon Musk is slowly releasing details about his secret brain chip startup Neuralink, but he recently shared the technology could help cure addiction and depression.

Elon Musk claims mysterious brain chip will be able to cure depression and addiction: 'It's both great and terrifying'

The Independent - Tech

Elon Musk has revealed more details about his mysterious brain-computer chip startup Neuralink, claiming that it could be used to help cure addiction and depression. Mr Musk founded Neuralink in 2016, though few details about how the technology will work have been revealed. After receiving more than $158m (£125m) in funding, Neuralink announced in a 2019 presentation that it had developed a "sewing machine-like" device capable of connecting brains directly to computers. More information about Neuralink will be revealed on 28 August, Mr Musk said on Thursday, prompting Twitter user Pranay Pathole to ask the billionaire entrepreneur what future capabilities could be expected. "Can Neuralink be used to retrain the part of the brain which is responsible for causing addiction or depression? It'd be great if Neuralink can be used for something like addiction/ depression," he asked.

Monkeying with the piano


Neuroscience The anatomical organization of auditory cortical pathways in nonhuman primates (NHPs) shows remarkable similarities with humans. So why don't NHPs have a more speech-like communication system? Archakov et al. trained macaques to perform an auditory-motor task using a purpose-built piano. Mapping brain activity by functional magnetic resonance imaging showed that sound sequences activated the auditory midbrain and cortex. More importantly, sound sequences that had been learned by self-production also activated motor cortex and basal ganglia. This shows that monkeys can form auditory-motor links and that this is not the reason why they do not speak. Instead, the origin of speech in humans may have required the evolution of a command apparatus that controls the upper vocal tract. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117 , 15242 (2020).

The human brain built by AI: A transatlantic collaboration


The Helmholtz International BigBrain Analytics and Learning Laboratory (HIBALL) is a collaboration between McGill University and Forschungszentrum Jülich to develop next-generation high-resolution human brain models using cutting-edge Machine- and Deep Learning methods and high-performance computing. HIBALL is based on the high-resolution BigBrain model first published by the Jülich and McGill teams in 2013. Over the next five years, the lab will be funded with a total of up to 6 million Euro by the German Helmholtz Association, Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives at McGill University. In 2003, when Jülich neuroscientist Katrin Amunts and her Canadian colleague Alan Evans began scanning 7,404 histological sections of a human brain, it was completely unclear whether it would ever be possible to reconstruct this brain on the computer in three dimensions. At that time, there were no technical possibilities to cope with the huge amount of data.

Elon Musk promises to have the Neuralink brain chip in a human this year


The device that allows the human brain to connect to a computer could be implanted in a person for the first time later this year, announced the founder of Neuralink neurotechnology company, the tycoon Elon Musk. Last year, Musk's Neuralink introduced a special microchip and flexible fiber electrodes that should allow the human brain to connect to computers or machines. At the same time, he announced that the electrodes in question would like to be implanted with a laser in the future because it is more suitable than a mechanical drill for making holes in the skull. This crazy project of Elon Musk and his startup seems to be going well. Elon Musk said on Twitter that the Neuralink is working on an "awesome" new version of the company's signature device.