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Feb 17, 2007

Center for Neurotechnology Studies Launched at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

from Brainwaves

In Neuropolicy



The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has announced the launch of The Center for Neurotechnology Studies (CNS) which intends on providing neutral, in-depth analysis of matters at the intersection of neuroscience and technology—neurotechnology—and public policy. The Center will anticipate ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) associated with emerging neurotechnology, and shepherd constructive discourse on these issues. It will provide a forum for reasoned consideration of these subjects both by experts and the public.


 Read the full post on Brainwaves blog




Jan 27, 2007

Brain activity provides novel biometric key

Via New Scientist 

EU researchers have developed a system that uses the electrical activity in a person's brain to provide a hard-to-forge biometric for high-security applications. The system was developed by two companies - Starlab in Spain and Forenap in France - in cooperation with researchers at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, in Greece. 

read more >> 

Jan 15, 2007

Second Sight Medical Retinal Prosthesis Receives FDA Approval for Clinical Trials

From Medgadget


2nd sight implant...those are some expensive sunglasses

2nd Sight Medical has just received USFDA investigational device exemption (IDE) to begin clinical trials for their Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System:


The Argus II implant consists of an array of electrodes that are attached to the retina and used in conjunction with an external camera and video processing system to provide a rudimentary form of sight to implanted subjects. An IDE trial of the first generation implant (Argus™ 16), which has 16 electrodes, is ongoing at the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California. The Argus 16 was implanted in six RP subjects between 2002 and 2004 and has enabled them to detect when lights are on or off, describe an object's motion, count discrete items, as well as locate and differentiate basic objects in an environment. Five of these subjects are now using their Argus 16 retinal prostheses at home.

retinal implant by Second Sight


The next generation Argus II retinal stimulator is designed with 60 independently controllable electrodes, which should provide implanted subjects with higher resolution images. Second Sight remains the only manufacturer with an actively powered permanently implantable retinal prosthesis under clinical study in the United States, and the technology represents the highest electrode count for such a device anywhere in the world.


Read the full press release 



Dec 23, 2006

FDA Approves Cool-Cap

Via BrainBlog

FDA Approves Novel Device That Prevents or Reduces Brain Damage in Infants (FDA press release)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved a first-of-a-kind medical device for the treatment of babies born with moderate to severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a potentially fatal injury to the brain caused by low levels of oxygen.  The Olympic Cool-Cap system is designed to prevent or reduce damage to the brains of these patients by keeping the head cool while the body is maintained at a slightly below-normal temperature.  The Cool-Cap is manufactured by Olympic Medical Corporation, a subsidiary of Natus Medical Incorporated of San Carlos, Calif.

Read the full PR

Dec 03, 2006

A brain chip to control paralyzed limbs

Via Medgadget

Robert Kirsch and coll., researchers at the at Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center, are developing a more intuitive way for severely paralyzed individuals to regain motor function:

Scientists are now building a device that records brain signals and transmits them to paralyzed muscles, potentially returning muscle control to severely paralyzed patients. In the prosthetic system, which is still in early development, a brain chip records neural signals from the part of the brain that controls movement. The chip then processes those signals, sending precise messages to wires implanted in different muscles of the patient's arm or hand, triggering the paralyzed limb to grab a glass or scratch the nose. "Our ultimate goal is for a person to think and effortlessly move the arm ," says Robert Kirsch , associate director of the Functional Electrical Stimulation Center, at Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Cleveland, OH.

But for some patients, especially severely paralyzed individuals with control over few muscles, using signals recorded directly from the brain to control the paralyzed limbs could provide an easier and more intuitive way to move. So the Cleveland researchers are working with John Donoghue , a neuroscientist at Brown University, who has developed implantable brain chips that record and process electrical activity directly from neurons. The device, made by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems , in Foxborough, MA, consists of a tiny chip containing 100 electrodes that record signals from hundreds of neurons in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that modulates movement. A computer algorithm then translates this complex pattern of activity into a signal used to control a computer or prosthetic limb.

The project is likely to be complex. Donoghue and colleagues must first make their brain chip wireless and fully implantable. (Currently, patients have some hardware protruding from their skull and are connected to a computer via wires.) An implantable system would minimize the risk of infection, and it might also help patients learn to use the system. Eberhard Fetz , a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, in Seattle, who is developing similar systems in monkeys, says that an implantable device would allow patients to use the system 24 hours a day, which would help them learn to modulate neural signals for precise control.


MIT Technology Review article

Nov 22, 2006

Motor imagery and EEG-based control of spelling devices and neuroprostheses

Motor imagery and EEG-based control of spelling devices and neuroprostheses.

Prog Brain Res. 2006;159:393-409

Authors: Neuper C, Müller-Putz GR, Scherer R, Pfurtscheller G

A brain-computer interface (BCI) transforms signals originating from the human brain into commands that can control devices or applications. With this, a BCI provides a new non-muscular communication channel, which can be used to assist patients who have highly compromised motor functions. The Graz-BCI uses motor imagery and associated oscillatory EEG signals from the sensorimotor cortex for device control. As a result of research in the past 15 years, the classification of ERD/ERS patterns in single EEG trials during motor execution and motor imagery forms the basis of this sensorimotor-rhythm controlled BCI. The major frequency bands of cortical oscillations considered here are the 8-13 and 15-30Hz bands. This chapter describes the basic methods used in Graz-BCI research and outlines possible clinical applications.

Nov 10, 2006


A great catch by the always-interesting NeuroFuture:


BrainWaves is a musical performance by cultured cortical cells interfacing with multielectrode arrays. Eight electrodes recorded neural patterns that were filtered to eight speakers after being sonified by robotic and human interpretation. Sound patterns followed neural spikes and waveforms, and also extended to video, with live visualizations of the music and neural patterns in front of a mesmerized audience. See a two minute video here (still image below). Teams from two research labs designed and engineered the project; read more from collaborator Gil Weinberg.


Nov 06, 2006

Dopamine used to prompt nerve tissue to regrow

Via Medgadget

Georgia Tech/Emory researchers are testing how to use dopamine to design polymer that could help damaged nerves reconnect. Their discovery might lead to the development of new therapies for a range of central and peripheral nervous system disorders:

The discovery is the first step toward the eventual goal of implanting the new polymer into patients suffering from neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or epilepsy, to help repair damaged nerves. The findings were published online the week of Oct. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We showed that you could use a neurotransmitter as a building block of a polymer," said Wang. "Once integrated into the polymer, the transmitter can still elicit a specific response from nerve tissues."

The "designer" polymer was recognized by the neurons when used on a small piece of nerve tissue and stimulated extensive neural growth. The implanted polymer didn't cause any tissue scarring or nerve degeneration, allowing the nerve to grow in a hostile environment post injury.

When ready for clinical use, the polymer would be implanted at the damaged site to promote nerve regeneration. As the nerve tissue reforms, the polymer degrades.

Wang's team found that dopamine's structure, which contains two hydroxyl groups, is vital for the material's neuroactivity. Removing even one group caused a complete loss of the biological activity. They also determined that dopamine was more effective at differentiating nerve cells than the two most popular materials for culturing nerves -- polylysine and laminin. This ability means that the material with dopamine may have a better chance to successfully repair damaged nerves.

The success of dopamine has encouraged the team to set its sights on other neurotransmitters.

"Dopamine was a good starting point, but we are looking into other neurotransmitters as well," Wang said.

The team's next step is to verify findings that the material stimulates the reformation of synapses in addition to regrowth.


Nov 05, 2006

Nano-optical switches to restore sight?

From Emerging Technology Trends 

Californian researchers are using light to control biological nanomolecules and proteins. They think it's possible to put some of their nano-photoswitches in the cells of the retina, restoring light sensitivity in people with degenerative blindness such as macular degeneration...

Read the full article

Oct 26, 2006

Neurotechnology Industry Organization launched

Zack Lynch (Brainwaves) has announced the launch of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization:

The Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) is “a non-profit trade association that represents a broad spectrum of companies involved in neurotechnology (drugs, devices and diagnostics), neuroscience research centers and brain disease advocacy groups across the United States and the world. NIO’s mission is to accelerate cures for brain and nervous system diseases by promoting the neurotechnology industry’s progress, advocating the industry’s position to government officials, and providing business development services to its members”

PT wishes you good luck for your organization, Zack!

Error mapping controller: a closed loop neuroprosthesis controlled by artificial neural networks

Error mapping controller: a closed loop neuroprosthesis controlled by artificial neural networks  

Authors: Alessandra Pedrocchi, Simona Ferrante, Elena De Momi and Giancarlo Ferrigno

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, Oct 25 2006

Background: The design of an optimal neuroprostheses controller and its clinical use presents several challenges. First, the physiological system is characterized by highly inter-subjects varying properties and also by non stationary behaviour with time, due to conditioning level and fatigue. Secondly, the easiness to use in routine clinical practice requires experienced operators. Therefore, feedback controllers, avoiding long setting procedures, are required. Methods: The error mapping controller (EMC) here proposed uses artificial neural networks (ANNs) both for the design of an inverse model and of a feedback controller. A neuromuscular model is used to validate the performance of the controllers in simulations. The EMC performance is compared to a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) included in an anti wind-up scheme (called PIDAW) and to a controller with an ANN as inverse model and a PID in the feedback loop (NEUROPID). In addition tests on the EMC robustness in response to variations of the Plant parameters and to mechanical disturbances are carried out. Results: The EMC shows improvements with respect to the other controllers in tracking accuracy, capability to prolong exercise managing fatigue, robustness to parameter variations and resistance to mechanical disturbances. Conclusion: Different from the other controllers, the EMC is capable of balancing between tracking accuracy and mapping of fatigue during the exercise. In this way, it avoids overstressing muscles and allows a considerable prolongation of the movement. The collection of the training sets does not require any particular experimental setting and can be introduced in routine clinical practice.

Neural implant induces reorganization of neural circuits

Long-term motor cortex plasticity induced by an electronic neural implant

Nature advance online publication 22 October 2006 | doi:10.1038/nature05226

Authors: Andrew Jackson, Jaideep Mavoori and Eberhard E. Fetz

It has been proposed that the efficacy of neuronal connections is strengthened when there is a persistent causal relationship between presynaptic and postsynaptic activity. Such activity-dependent plasticity may underlie the reorganization of cortical representations during learning, although direct in vivo evidence is lacking. Here we show that stable reorganization of motor output can be induced by an artificial connection between two sites in the motor cortex of freely behaving primates. An autonomously operating electronic implant used action potentials recorded on one electrode to trigger electrical stimuli delivered at another location. Over one or more days of continuous operation, the output evoked from the recording site shifted to resemble the output from the corresponding stimulation site, in a manner consistent with the potentiation of synaptic connections between the artificially synchronized populations of neurons. Changes persisted in some cases for more than one week, whereas the output from sites not incorporated in the connection was unaffected. This method for inducing functional reorganization in vivo by using physiologically derived stimulus trains may have practical application in neurorehabilitation after injury.

Oct 11, 2006

Special Computational Neuroscience Issue of Science

From Neurodudes 

The October 6th issue of Science is a special issue devoted to computational neuroscience. From the introduction to the special issue:

Computational neuroscience is now a mature field of research. In areas ranging from molecules to the highest brain functions, scientists use mathematical models and computer simulations to study and predict the behavior of the nervous system. Simulations are essential because the present experimental systems are too complex to allow collection of all the data. Modeling has become so powerful these days that there is no longer a one-way flow of scientific information. There is considerable intellectual exchange between modelers and experimentalists. The results produced in the simulation lab often lead to testable predictions and thus challenge other researchers to design new experiments or reanalyze their data as they try to confirm or falsify the hypotheses put forward. For this issue of Science, we invited leading computational neuroscientists, each of whom works at a different organizational level, to review the latest attempts of mathematical and computational modeling and to give us an outlook on what the future might hold in store.

Sep 30, 2006

Endoscopic eye tracking system for fMRI

Endoscopic eye tracking system for fMRI.

J Neurosci Methods. 2006 Sep 13;

Authors: Kanowski M, Rieger JW, Noesselt T, Tempelmann C, Hinrichs H

Here we introduce a new video-based real-time eye tracking system suitable for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) application. The described system monitors the subject's eye, which is illuminated with infrared light, directly at the headcoil using an endoscopic fibre optical system. This endoscopic technique assures reliable, easy-to-use and fast adjustment. It requires only a minimal amount of equipment at the headcoil and inside the examination room. Moreover, the short distance between the image acquisition optics and the eye provides high spatial tracking resolution. Interference from physiological head movement is effectively reduced by simultaneous tracking of both eye and head movements.

Utilizing Gamma Band to Improve Mental Task Based Brain-Computer Interface Design

Utilizing Gamma Band to Improve Mental Task Based Brain-Computer Interface Design

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, Volume 14, Issue 3, Sept. 2006 Page(s): 299 - 303

Palaniappan, R. 

A common method for designing brain–computer Interface (BCI) is to use electroencephalogram (EEG) signals extracted during mental tasks. In these BCI designs, features from EEG such as power and asymmetry ratios from delta, theta, alpha, and beta bands have been used in classifying different mental tasks. In this paper, the performance of the mental task based BCI design is improved by using spectral power and asymmetry ratios from gamma (24–37 Hz) band in addition to the lower frequency bands. In the experimental study, EEG signals extracted during five mental tasks from four subjects were used. Elman neural network (ENN) trained by the resilient backpropagation algorithm was used to classify the power and asymmetry ratios from EEG into different combinations of two mental tasks. The results indicated that 1) the classification performance and training time of the BCI design were improved through the use of additional gamma band features; 2) classification performances were nearly invariant to the number of ENN hidden units or feature extraction method.

Brain-computer interfaces for control of neuroprostheses

Brain-computer interfaces for control of neuroprostheses: from synchronous to asynchronous mode of operation.

Biomed Tech (Berl). 2006;51(2):57-63

Authors: Müller-Putz GR, Scherer R, Pfurtscheller G, Rupp R

Transferring a brain-computer interface (BCI) from the laboratory environment into real world applications is directly related to the problem of identifying user intentions from brain signals without any additional information in real time. From the perspective of signal processing, the BCI has to have an uncued or asynchronous design. Based on the results of two clinical applications, where 'thought' control of neuroprostheses based on movement imagery in tetraplegic patients with a high spinal cord injury has been established, the general steps from a synchronous or cue-guided BCI to an internally driven asynchronous brain-switch are discussed. The future potential of BCI methods for various control purposes, especially for functional rehabilitation of tetraplegics using neuroprosthetics, is outlined.

Sep 27, 2006

Allen Brain Atlas

Via Wired 
Researchers of the Allen Brain Atlas project announce their first achievement - a map of every gene in the mouse brain (about 21,000 genes in all). They are now planning a similar study using human brain slices.
Read the full story

Sep 21, 2006

OpenStim: The Open Noninvasive Brain Stimulator

Via The Neurodudes

The goal of the project "OpenStim" is to design a simple, safe, effective transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for modulation of emotion, sleep, attention, and other central nervous system properties. TMS system price often exceeds $50.000. The project's team aims to develop a TMS device that will be constructable by a practitioner skilled in electrical engineering, for less than $400.

Also, all the knowledge generated by the project is released under the Creative Commons “Attribution and Sharealike” license. This is a new model for “open source” medical device development — which may move it beyond the domain of simply creating “cool toys,” and to creating real devices.

From the OpenStim website:

The project comprises at least the following 8 components. The logical way to begin is to A) figure out the field geometry desired at the specific depth under the skull, B) design a prototype coil, preferably with standardized values, C) pick the capacitor and resistor adjoining, D) work your way back to the power supply. 1. a reinforced coil (e.g., of copper wire) geometrically appropriate for stimulating the brain (e.g., a figure-8 coil, containing two circular loops, between 3 and 7 cm in diameter),

1b. a testing tank which would hold saline, to mimic the volume conductor of the brain, and thereby permit the electric field to be mapped for various coils and pulse protocols,

2. the control circuitry for charging up a high-capacity capacitor or bank of capacitors, via a power supply

3. mechanical hardware for holding and positioning the coil with respect to the head,

4. safety circuitry that limits the current discharged and the repetition rate of the stimulator,

5. an optional measurement device (e.g., fluxgate magnetometer) to measure the magnetic field induced, and

6. computer software and interface hardware for connecting a computer to the control circuitry, and for displaying hardware status and/or error events.

7. integration with EEG or IR was brought up by many attendees of the session at Foo Camp. The contributors decided this should be built in, a priori.

8. OTHER THOUGHT: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has, like TMS, been shown to improve working memory and mood. Shall we design our TMS device with the capability of doing simultaneous tDCS? It could complicate things somewhat. Hoewver, the methodology is dead simple — apply a DC current across two electrodes, attached to the scalp! system connected to an AC wall source or battery source, and then controlling the discharge of the capacitor into the coil,


Electrical stimulation of the brain can create the sensation of a "shadow person"

Via KurzweilAI.net

Olaf Blanke and colleagues at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne have found electrical stimulation of the brain can create the sensation of a "shadow person" mimicking one's bodily movements. 

During a neurological assessment of a woman, doctors stimulated the left temporoparietal junction area of the brain. This stimulation caused her to believe a person was standing behind her. The patient reported that "person" adopted the same bodily positions as her, although she didn't recognize the effect as an illusion. 

The discovery, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, might foster the understanding of psychiatric phenomena such as feelings of paranoia, persecution and alien control, Swiss researchers say.

Sep 10, 2006

Portable MRI

Via the Neurophilosopher's blog 

Alexander Pines and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working on a new laser-based MRI technique which may lead to the development of a cheap and compact scanning device.

The experimental technique is based on a method called atomic magnetometry, which allows to detect the magnetic signals produced by water molecules without the large magnets or complex cooling systems used in conventional fMRI.

From the LBNL website:

Alexander Pines and colleagues at Berkeley Lab have developed a method to improve NMR/MRI resolution either inside of poorly shimmed magnets or outside of portable one-sided magnet systems, which accommodate arbitrarily sized samples.  This technique will enable for the first time the collection of multidimensional NMR/ MRI information in cases where on-the-spot medical diagnosis is critical, where samples cannot be moved to or placed inside of a superconducting magnet, or where inexpensive, highly inhomogeneous magnets are being used.  Other ex situ systems give relaxation data and sometimes slice-selective images, but not spectra and true 3D images.