Direct neural interface: Hopefully coming soon to a brain near you

Direct neural interface has long been a dream and fantasy of tech geeks like myself who grew up reading science fiction. Slap an electrode net on your head (or screw a cable into an implanted jack) and there you are, controlling a computer with the same ease that you'd walk down the street or bend a paperclip with your fingers. If nothing else, those of us who battle the spectre of carpal tunnel syndrome constantly know that our careers have a shelf life, and at some point we're going to be out of action more or less permanently. So we …

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Reversing progressive memory loss, transplantable 3D printed organs, and improvements in resuscitation.

Possibly the most frightening thing about Alzheimer's Disease is the progressive loss of self; many humans measure their lives by the continuity of their memories, and when that starts to fail, it calls into question all sorts of things about yourself... as long as you're able to think about them. I'm not being cruel, I'm not cracking wise, Alzheimer's is a terrifying disease because it eats everything that makes you, you. Thus, it is with no small feeling of hope that I link to these results at the Buck Institute for Research On Aging - in a small trial at UCLA …

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Prosthetic synaesthesia and cortical implants.

The human brain is a remarkably complex and flexible organ, with as many possible failure modes and glitches as there are emergent and surprising properties. Take something away, and sometimes you can coax another part of the brain to take up the slack in some other way. Case in point, artist Neil Harbisson. Harbisson was born with a condition called achromatopsia, which is the name for a group of disorders which collectively result in the same phenomenon - he cannot see colors, only shades of greyscale. Sometimes it's a neurological dysfunction, sometimes it's a defect in the retina, and sometimes it's …

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Studying the human connectome.

Late last year I did an article about the simulation of parts of the the human brain on a massive scale called SPAUN that was implemented using software called Nengo. The basic concept behind SPAUN, as you may recall, is that it is a functional model of some aspects of the human brain which duplicate some of the neural networks as well as the myriad connections between them. What isn't obvious is that this connection model was developed in part through the microscopic examination of many human brains post mortem plus many different kinds of scans carried out on living …

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Programmable nanoprocessors and neural prosthetics?

A dream many of us over the years had involve having head computers of one kind or another implanted. Augmentations of our existing capabilities, replacements for damaged sectors, direct neural interface with other computers, encrypted partitions for carrying data, brand new functionality - you name it, chances are there's a geek out there who'd love to beta test it. One of the problems at the moment, however, is a distinct lack of space inside the cranium. When you get right down to it there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room inside your skull. Layering circuitry on the surface of the …

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Deep brain stimulation, or, "That's funny..."

Marvin Minsky once said that the human mind operates at only one tenth of its full capacity because the rest is taken up by the operating system's overhead. I always thought that was kind of a funny statement. When you get right down to it, nobody's really sure how the brain functions, or even how the mind operates inside of the 2.8 pounds of matter behind your eyes. People have variously been stabbed in the head (ye gods), lost a full quarter of brain mass in accidents, and even had entire hemispheres surgically excised and gone on to live …

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Blind, but still with eyes to see.

The first time I read through this article it threw me for a loop: a patient at a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland referred to by the initials 'TN' suffered two strokes a couple of weeks apart. Each CVA damaged one half of his visual cortex, thus rendering him completely blind for all intents and purposes. While he was recovering, physicians discovered that TN still had the ability to read the facial expressions of people around him and correctly interpret their emotional states. Some tests showed that his amygdala was still operational, which lead neurologists to wonder what else he was …

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