Brain implants enable man to simultaneously control two prosthetic limbs with thoughts


by Johns Hopkins University

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Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory engineer Francesco Tenore (standing) watches as Buz Chmielewski (seated), a patient with minimal movement in his arms and hands, uses brain implants to control two robotic prosthetic arms. Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

In what is believed to be a medical first, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have enabled a quadriplegic man to control a pair of prosthetic arms with his mind.

In January 2019, surgeons implanted six electrodes into the brain of Robert “Buz” Chmielewski during a 10-hour operation. The goal was to improve the sensation in his hands and enable him to mentally operate his prostheses. For more than three decades after a surfing accident while in his teens, Chmielewski has been paralyzed with only minimal movement in his arms and hands.

Now, almost two years into the joint JHM/APL research study following the surgery, has reached an important milestone—he can now use both of his robotic appendages to perform simple tasks such as feeding himself.

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Elon Musk is one step closer to connecting a computer to your brain

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Neuralink has demonstrated a prototype of its brain-machine interface that currently works in pigs.

At a Friday event, Elon Musk revealed more details about his mysterious neuroscience company Neuralink and its plans to connect computers to human brains. While the development of this futuristic-sounding tech is still in its early stages, the presentation was expected to demonstrate the second version of a small, robotic device that inserts tiny electrode threads through the skull and into the brain. Musk said ahead of the event he would “show neurons firing in real-time. The matrix in the matrix.”

And he did just that. At the event, Musk showed off several pigs that had prototypes of the neural links implanted in their head, and machinery that was tracking those pigs’ brain activity in real time. The billionaire also announced the Food and Drug Administration had awarded the company a breakthrough device authorization, which can help expedite research on a medical device.

Like building underground car tunnels and sending private rockets to Mars, this Musk-backed endeavor is incredibly ambitious, but Neuralink builds on years of research into brain-machine interfaces. A brain-machine interface is technology that allows for a device, like a computer, to interact and communicate with a brain. Neuralink, in particular, aims to build an incredibly powerful brain-machine interface, a device with the power to handle lots of data, that can be inserted in a relatively simple surgery. Its short-term goal is to build a device that can help people with specific health conditions.

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Brain-inspired electronic system could vastly reduce AI’s carbon footprint

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A wafer filled with memristors.

Extremely energy-efficient artificial intelligence is now closer to reality after a study by UCL researchers found a way to improve the accuracy of a brain-inspired computing system.

The system, which uses memristors to create artificial neural networks, is at least 1,000 times more energy efficient than conventional transistor-based AI hardware, but has until now been more prone to error.

Existing AI is extremely energy-intensive—training one AI model can generate 284 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the lifetime emissions of five cars. Replacing the transistors that make up all digital devices with memristors, a novel electronic device first built in 2008, could reduce this to a fraction of a ton of carbon dioxide—equivalent to emissions generated in an afternoon’s drive.

Since memristors are so much more energy-efficient than existing computing systems, they can potentially pack huge amounts of computing power into hand-held devices, removing the need to be connected to the Internet.

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Elon Musk claims his Neuralink chip will allow you to stream music directly to your brain

Brain-computer interface could also give people ‘enhanced abilities’

Elon Musk‘s mysterious Neuralink startup is working on a brain-computer interface that will allow wearers to stream music directly to their brain, the technology entrepreneur has claimed.

Mr Musk, who also heads SpaceX and Tesla, is set to reveal new information about the mysterious startup next month but has been slowly releasing details over Twitter in recent days.

Responding to computer scientist Austin Howard, Mr Musk confirmed that Neuralink’s technology would allow people to “listen to music directly from our chips.”

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Engineers put tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses on a single chip

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A new MIT-fabricated “brain-on-a-chip” reprocessed an image of MIT’s Killian Court, including sharpening and blurring the image, more reliably than existing neuromorphic designs.

MIT engineers have designed a “brain-on-a-chip,” smaller than a piece of confetti, that is made from tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses known as memristors—silicon-based components that mimic the information-transmitting synapses in the human brain.

The researchers borrowed from principles of metallurgy to fabricate each memristor from alloys of silver and copper, along with silicon. When they ran the chip through several visual tasks, the chip was able to “remember” stored images and reproduce them many times over, in versions that were crisper and cleaner compared with existing memristor designs made with unalloyed elements.

Their results, published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, demonstrate a promising new memristor design for neuromorphic devices—electronics that are based on a new type of circuit that processes information in a way that mimics the brain’s neural architecture. Such brain-inspired circuits could be built into small, portable devices, and would carry out complex computational tasks that only today’s supercomputers can handle.

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Disrupting death: Could we really live forever in digital form?

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Virtual reality, robots, chatbots and holograms could allow us to exist perpetually. Whether we should choose the option is a different story.

In 2016, Jang Ji-sung’s young daughter Nayeon passed away from a blood-related disease. But in February, the South Korean mother was reunited with her daughter in virtual reality. Experts constructed a version of her child using motion capture technology for a documentary. Wearing a VR headset and haptic gloves, Jang was able to walk, talk and play with this digital version of her daughter.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” Jang said of the moment the two met in VR. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”

Once largely the concern of science fiction, more people are now interested in immortality — whether that’s keeping your body or mind alive forever (as explored in the new Amazon Prime comedy Upload), or in creating some kind of living memorial, like an AI-based robot or chatbot version of yourself, or of your loved one. The question is — should we do that? And if we do, what should it look like?

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Researchers unveil electronics that mimic the human brain in efficient learning

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Researchers unveil electronics that mimic the human brain in efficient learning

A graphic depiction of protein nanowires (green) harvested from microbe Geobacter (orange) facilitate the electronic memristor device (silver) to function with biological voltages, emulating the neuronal components (blue junctions) in a brain. Credit: UMass Amherst/Yao lab

Only 10 years ago, scientists working on what they hoped would open a new frontier of neuromorphic computing could only dream of a device using miniature tools called memristors that would function/operate like real brain synapses.

But now a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered, while on their way to better understanding protein nanowires, how to use these biological, electricity conducting filaments to make a neuromorphic memristor, or “memory transistor,” device. It runs extremely efficiently on very low power, as brains do, to carry signals between neurons. Details are in Nature Communications.

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Scientists develop AI that can turn brain activity into text

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Researchers in US tracked the neural data from people while they were speaking

Reading minds has just come a step closer to reality: scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can turn brain activity into text.

While the system currently works on neural patterns detected while someone is speaking aloud, experts say it could eventually aid communication for patients who are unable to speak or type, such as those with locked in syndrome.

“We are not there yet but we think this could be the basis of a speech prosthesis,” said Dr Joseph Makin, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Francisco.

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If we can make animals smarter, should we?

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In science fiction stories, research can accidentally create superintelligent animal species. As the ability to alter animals’ brains grows, some say we should be wary of fiction becoming reality.

This article appears in VICE Magazine’s Stupid Issue, which is dedicated to the entertaining, goofy, and just plain dumb. It features stories celebrating ridiculous ideas, trends, and products; pieces arguing that unabashed stupidity can be a great part of life; and articles calling out the bad side of stupidity.

In the 2011 movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco plays a scientist developing a treatment for Alzheimer’s. The drug, ALZ-112, is designed to restore a human’s brain function, and when tested on a healthy chimpanzee, it causes the monkey’s intelligence to increase dramatically. She passes the intelligence on to her baby, Caesar, who goes on to lead a pack of super-intelligent apes and releases a version of the drug that’s fatal to humans.

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US Army to study gamers’ brains to build AI military robots

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A group of experts wants to study the brain waves and eye movements of people playing a video game in order to build an advanced AI that could coordinate the actions of military robots.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, awarded a team from the University of Buffalo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute a $316,000 grant for the study.

Although swarm robotics is inspired by many things, including ant colonies, researchers believe that humans have a lot of potential to improve AI learning systems. The study of 25 video game players will include real-time strategy games such as StarCraft, Stellaris and Company of Heroes.

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Move over, pot: Psychedelic companies are about to go public

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The first companies developing medical treatments from psychedelic drugs like LSD, ketamine and the active ingredient in magic mushrooms are gearing up to list on Canadian stock exchanges.

Mind Medicine Inc., which is undertaking clinical trials of psychedelic-based drugs, intends to list on Toronto’s NEO Exchange by the first week of March, said JR Rahn, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive officer. A NEO spokesman confirmed the listing, which is pending final approvals.

The company plans to list via a reverse takeover under the ticker MMED. It’s not yet generating revenue and is targeting a valuation of approximately $50 million, Rahn said. MindMed counts former Canopy Growth Corp. co-CEO Bruce Linton as a director and Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary as an investor.

“Our ambition is to be one of the first publicly listed neuro-pharmaceutical companies developing psychedelic medicines,” Rahn said in a phone interview.

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Mark Zuckerberg says brain-reading wearables are coming, but certain functions may require implanted devices

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.

 Zuckerberg said on Thursday said that he’s thinking more about brain-controlling wearable and implantable technology.

“The goal is to eventually make it so that you can think something and control something in virtual or augmented reality,” he said.

Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that he wants to work on brain-controlling wearable and implantable technology, and Facebook’s recent acquisition of CTRL-labs was a step in that direction.

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