Computer to Read Minds

They’re already predicting, mathematically, what you’ll want to watch, what you’ll want to wear, and who you’ll want to vote for. Obviously, the next step is for computers to read your mind—and that’s just what they’re working toward at Tufts University in Boston.

Your computer won’t be picking up details about your plans for the evening anytime soon. But researchers with the Human Computer Interaction group at Tufts have come up with a straightforward way for your computer to tell if you are overworked, under-worked or not working at all, according to a paper they will present next week at an Association of Computing Machinery symposium.

That may not sound like penetrating perception, but the researchers hope that capacity will eventually help them gain real-time insight into the brain’s more subtle emotional states and help provide pointers about how we can get work done more efficiently.

Futuristic headband

The mind reading actually involves measuring the volume and oxygen level of the blood around the subject’s brain, using technology called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

The user wears a sort of futuristic headband that sends light in that spectrum into the tissues of the head where it is absorbed by active, blood-filled tissues. The headband then measures how much light was not absorbed, letting the computer gauge the metabolic demands that the brain is making.

The results are often compared to an MRI, but can be gathered with lightweight, non-invasive equipment.

(read more of this article from here)

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An on-off Switch for Memory?

For the first time, scientists have recreated the brain’s learning process and can restore long-forgotten memories.

Scientists have developed an on-off memory switch that helped laboratory rats remember a behavior that they had forgotten.

The brain prosthesis marks the first time that researchers have been able to duplicate the brain’s learning process, restoring memories that test rats were drugged to forget, and could offer hope for people with dementia.

“Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget,” said Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Working with scientists from North Carolina’s Wake Forest University Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Berger’s team focused on the hippocampus, the section of the brain where memories are made.

The communication between two regions of the hippocampus results in a short-term memory being converted into a long-term memory.

The team studied the signals sent between these subregions as rats learned a task that involved pressing a lever in order to get a reward. Through repetition, the rats learned the behavior as a long-term memory.

When scientists drugged the rats to halt neuron signals between the two regions, the rats forgot the long-term memory.

But when they implanted an electronic brain prosthetic that duplicated the signaling process between the subregions, the rats could remember again.

In normal rats, “the device could actually strengthen the memory being generated internally in the brain and enhance the memory capability,” said the study published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

The team hopes to test the device in monkeys next, in the hope it could one day help people who suffer from memory loss due to dementia, stroke or brain injury.

source: Discovery News

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