Implantable brain device relieves pain in early study

Cerebellum of CIVM postnatal rat brain atlas.

by NYU Langone Health

A computerized brain implant effectively relieves short-term and chronic pain in rodents, a new study finds.

The experiments, conducted by investigators at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, offer what the researchers call a “blueprint” for the development of brain implants to treat painsyndromes and other brain-based disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

Publishing June 21 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the study showed that device-implanted rats withdrew their paws 40 percent more slowly from sudden pain compared with times when their device was turned off.

According to the study authors, this suggests that the device reduced the intensity of the pain the rodents experienced. In addition, animals in sudden or continuous pain spent about two-thirds more time in a chamber where the computer-controlled device was turned on than in a chamber where it was not.

Researchers say the investigation is the first to use a computerized brain implant to detect and relieve bursts of pain in real time. The device is also the first of its kind to target chronic pain, which often occurs without being prompted by a known trigger, the study authors say.

“Our findings show that this implant offers an effective strategy for pain therapy, even in cases where symptoms are traditionally difficult to pinpoint or manage,” says senior study author Jing Wang, MD, Ph.D., the Valentino D.B. Mazzia, MD, JD Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at NYU Langone Health.

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A $50,000 Helmet Can Read User’s Mind. And It’s Ready

The promise of a leagues-more-affordable technology that anyone can wear and walk around with is, well, mind-bending. 

This helmet measures changes in blood oxygenation levels.

Over the next few weeks, a company called Kernel will begin sending dozens of customers across the U.S. a $50,000 helmet that can, crudely speaking, read their mind. Weighing a couple of pounds each, the helmets contain nests of sensors and other electronics that measure and analyze a brain’s electrical impulses and blood flow at the speed of thought, providing a window into how the organ responds to the world. The basic technology has been around for years, but it’s usually found in room-size machines that can cost millions of dollars and require patients to sit still in a clinical setting.

The promise of a leagues-more-affordable technology that anyone can wear and walk around with is, well, mind-bending. Excited researchers anticipate using the helmets to gain insight into brain aging, mental disorders, concussions, strokes, and the mechanics behind previously metaphysical experiences such as meditation and psychedelic trips. “To make progress on all the fronts that we need to as a society, we have to bring the brain online,” says Bryan Johnson, who’s spent more than five years and raised about $110 million-half of it his own money-to develop the helmets.

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Scientists Just Recorded A Brain Signal Using Quantum Technology

This is the first time a brain signal has been recorded with a modular quantum brain sensor.

By  Derya Ozdemir

Marking a key milestone for quantum brain imaging technology, researchers at the University of Sussex Quantum Systems and Devices laboratory have successfully developed a modular quantum brain scanner and utilized it to capture a brain signal. The researchers say their device is the first to do that using a modular brain scanner, according to a press release.

Modular sensors can be scaled up and connected together “like Lego bricks,” which is why the researchers also linked two sensors, demonstrating that whole-brain scanning, as well as finding potential advances for detecting and delivering treatment to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, with this technology might be just around the corner.

The device described in the study — which has been published in pre-print — has achieved something that is presently not achievable using commercially available quantum brain sensors from the U.S. It employs ultra-sensitive quantum sensors to pick up minuscule magnetic fields and map neural activity within the brain.

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Man paralyzed from neck down uses AI brain implants to write out text messages


Read my blips

By Katyanna Quach

A combination of brain implants and a neural network helped a 65-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down type out text messages on a computer at 90 characters per minute, faster than any other known brain-machine interface.

The patient, referred to as T5 in a research paper published [preprint] in Nature on Wednesday, is the first person to test the technology, which was developed by a team of researchers led by America’s Stanford University.

Two widgets were attached to the surface of T5’s brain; the devices featured hundreds of fine electrodes that penetrated about a millimetre into the patient’s gray matter. The test subject was then asked to imagine writing out 572 sentences over the course of three days. These text passages contained all the letters of the alphabet as well as punctuation marks. T5 was asked to represent spaces in between words using the greater than symbol, >.

Signals from the electrodes were then given to a recurrent neural network as input. The model was trained to map each specific reading from T5’s brain to the corresponding character as output. The brain wave patterns recorded from thinking about handwriting the letter ‘a’, for example, were distinct from the ones produced when imagining writing the letter ‘b’. Thus, the software could be trained to associate the signals for ‘a’ with the letter ‘a’, and so on, so that as the patient thought about writing each character in a sentence, the neural net would decode the train of brain signals into the desired characters.

With a data set of 31,472 characters, the machine learning algorithm was able to learn how to decode T5’s brain signals to each character he was trying to write correctly about 94 per cent of the time. The characters were then displayed so he was able to communicate.

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Neuralink Could Implant Chips Into Human Brains ‘Later This Year,’ Says Musk

This video grab made from the online Neuralink livestream shows a drawing of the different steps of the implantation of a Neuralink device seen during a presentation on August 28, 2020 Photo: Neuralink

By Nica Osorio  


KEY POINTS

  • Musk’s Neuralink was founded in 2016
  • Neuralink is a neurotech company developing implantable brain-machine interfaces
  • The company developed a surgical robot a few years a

Billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk mentioned that his brainchild, Neuralink, could implant a chip into a human brain later this year.

Neuralink, a brain-computer-interface company, could soon transition from studying and operating on monkeys to human trials within 2021, according to Musk. In a Twitter conversation following the release of Neuralink’s latest video, a follower reached out to the business magnate in the hope of getting the chance to be one of the subjects of the company’s clinical studies. 

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Wearable ‘Crown’ Boosts Users’ Productivity With Brain Analysis

Neurosity’s ‘Crown’ analyzes brainwaves and plays music to help the wearer stay focused.

By  Chris Young

A pair of engineers have designed a wearable Electroencephalography, or EEG, device called the ‘Crown’ to analyze the activity of the user’s frontal lobe and help them maintain focus and boost productivity with the aid of music.

The device, from Neurosity, measures and analyzes the wearer’s brain waves with the help of eight EEG sensors. 

EEG is one of the most widely used non-invasive techniques for measuring neural activity. The technology essentially records the brain’s electrical activity through electrodes that are placed on the scalp.

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Scientists entered people’s dreams and got them ‘talking’

Researchers analyzed the brain signals and eye and facial movements of people engaged in lucid dreaming “conversations.” 

By Sofia Moutinho

Scientists entered people’s dreams and got them ‘talking’

In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio enters into other people’s dreams to interact with them and steal secrets from their subconscious. Now, it seems this science fiction plot is one baby step closer to reality. For the first time, researchers have had “conversations” involving novel questions and math problems with lucid dreamers—people who are aware that they are dreaming. The findings, from four labs and 36 participants, suggest people can receive and process complex external information while sleeping.

“This work challenges the foundational definitions of sleep,” says cognitive neuroscientist Benjamin Baird of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who studies sleep and dreams but was not part of the study. Traditionally, he says, sleep has been defined as a state in which the brain is disconnected and unaware of the outside world.

Lucid dreaming got one of its first mentions in the writings of Greek philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.E., and scientists have observed it since the 1970s in experiments about the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, when most dreaming occurs. One in every two people has had at least one lucid dream, about 10% of people experience them once a month or more. Although rare, this ability to recognize you are in a dream—and even control some aspects of it—can be enhanced with training. A few studies have tried to communicate with lucid dreamers using stimuli such as lights, shocks, and sounds to “enter” people’s dreams. But these recorded only minimal responses from the sleepers and did not involve complex transmission of information.

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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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