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Oct 26, 2006

Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges


Have a look at this very interesting article entitled "Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges" written by Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg. It focuses on the current state of the art in cognitive enhancement methods and consider their prospects for the near-term future. Authors also review some of ethical issues arising from these technologies.

Oct 23, 2006

Silicon retina mimics biology for a clearer view

Via KurzweilAI.net

An implantable silicon chip that faithfully mimics the neural circuitry of a real retina could lead to better bionic eyes for those with vision loss and would remove the need for a camera and external computer.

The top image shows the raw output of the retina chip, the middle one a picture processed from it and the third shows how a moving face would appear.

The chip, created by University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University researchers, measures 3.5 x 3.3 millimeters and contains 5760 silicon phototransistors, which take the place of light-sensitive neurons in a living retina. These are connected up to 3600 transistors, which mimic the nerve cells that process light information and pass it on to the brain for higher processing. There are 13 different types of transistor, each with slightly different performance, mimicking different types of actual nerve cells.

Read full article

Oct 09, 2006


Via ScienceDaily

Georgia Tech researchers are developing a wearable computing system called the System for Wearable Audio Navigation (SWAN) designed to help the visually impaired, firefighters, soldiers and others navigate their way in unknown territory, particularly when vision is obstructed or impaired. The SWAN system, consisting of a small laptop, a proprietary tracking chip, and bone-conduction headphones, provides audio cues to guide the person from place to place, with or without vision.

Read the full story on ScienceDaily

Oct 01, 2006

HiResolution Bionic Ear System

Via Medgadget

Medgadget reports that Boston Scientific has received FDA approval of its cochlear implant Harmony™ HiResolution® Bionic Ear System, a device designed for severely deaf patients.

From the press release:

Developed by the Company's Neuromodulation Group, the Harmony System delivers 120 spectral bands, 5 - 10 times more than competing systems, helping to significantly increase hearing potential and quality of life for the severe-to-profoundly deaf.

"The Harmony System represents the next generation of cochlear implant technology," said Jeff Greiner, President of Boston Scientific's Neuromodulation Group. "We have brought together unprecedented advancements in science, design and functionality for the user -- furthering our commitment to restoring hearing and improving quality of life for those living with hearing loss due to permanent inner ear or auditory nerve damage."

Designed to enhance music appreciation and improve hearing in a variety of difficult listening environments, the Harmony System couples revolutionary internal sound processing (with the optional HiRes Fidelity™ 120) with the new Harmony behind-the-ear (BTE) external sound processor. Together, the two key components of the Harmony System are designed to provide significantly enhanced spectral resolution compared to conventional systems for a more natural representation of sound to help improve patient performance...

Cochlear implant users can access soft whispers and loud sounds without adjusting dials or controls with Harmony's CD-quality processing and sophisticated dual-loop automatic gain control, helping users better appreciate music, hear in noisy environments, use the telephone, and hear sounds that are loud and soft.

In addition to the FDA approval, the Harmony HiResolution Bionic Ear System recently received approval from Health Canada and the CE mark in Europe.

According to clinical evaluation results, approximately 80 percent of the subjects reported a strong preference for the Harmony sound processor with HiRes Fidelity 120, most noting that they had improved clarity of speech and/or that environmental sounds were clearer and easier to distinguish.

The HiResolution Bionic Ear System with optional HiRes Fidelity 120 is approved in the U.S. for adults only at this time and for all patients in Canada and Europe. The product is expected to be available in early 2007.


Sep 17, 2006

Brain-training software

Via Videogame workout 

The latest BusinessWeek has an interesting report on brain training software. Although there is poor scientific evidence of the effectiveness of this approach in improving brain function, preliminary findings are encouraging:

This summer Posit released two studies [of their $395 Brain Fitness program] that Merzenich says prove its worth. One, involving 182 healthy people 60 and over, assigned half the group to Posit's brain exercises for eight weeks. The rest were asked only to watch educational DVDs. The researchers found that 93% of the Brain Fitness group significantly improved their memory function, while the control group did not.

In a second study released this summer, Posit's program was tried on 45 people diagnosed with MCI. PET scans of the brains of 15 participants were taken before and after the study. There was some evidence of memory gains in the Brain Fitness group, and the PET scans revealed a decline in brain activity in those who did not use the brain exercises. Brain activity held steady for the rest. "We've seen 80-year-old people improve from being sluggish and slow to having the mental performance level of a 35-year-old," says Merzenich.

Sep 06, 2006

Augmented reality may help people with visual impairment

Via NewScientist.com 

Eli Peli, an ophthalmologist and bioengineer at Harvard Medical School in Boston, has designed an augmented reality device to help patients with tunnel vision, a condition which narrows a person’s field of view.

The system, consisting of glasses fitted with a small camera and a transparent display on one lens, works by superimposing computer-generated images over real scenes.

According to preliminary test results, which will be reported in the September issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, patients who tried the system were able to search objects far more quickly.

Read the original article  

Aug 18, 2006

Using TMS to enhance peripheral vision

Via Medgadget 

He drew the short straw

Christian Ruff, Jon Driver and colleagues at University College London have succesfully used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to sharpen peripheral visual perception. Results of their experiment were published in the August 8th issue of Current Biology (full text .pdf of the article is available on the Current Biology site)

From the Press Release:

In their new work, the researchers used trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to trigger a chain of activity in specific parts of the brain, while the activity was measured with a scanner. In this way, they were able to show that stimulating a particular region of the frontal cortex that is normally involved in generating eye movements can change activity in visual cortex, almost as though an eye movement had been made (even though the eye itself stayed still).

Perceptual tests confirmed that this brain stimulation had the effect of enhancing peripheral vision, as if people could now see better out of the corner of their eye.

Brain stimulation with TMS is beginning to be used in the treatment of various neurological conditions, including those, such as the after-effects of a stroke, that can impair vision. The technical breakthrough reported by the UCL group means that it is now possible to study the underlying brain activity triggered by TMS, both in the healthy brain and in patients with brain damage.



Aug 04, 2006

The state of the art in Assisted Cognition

The article entitled "Assistive technology for cognitive rehabilitation: State of the art", by LoPresti et al. provides a comprehensive review of Assisted Cognition, a research field that aims to develop and assess technological tools for individuals with either acquired impairments or developmental disorders.

The full-text of this article is available here


Authors: Edmund Frank LoPresti; Alex Mihailidis; Ned Kirsch
Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, Volume 14, Numbers 1-2/March-May 2004, pp. 5-39(35)

Abstract: For close to 20 years, clinicians and researchers have been developing and assessing technological interventions for individuals with either acquired impairments or developmental disorders. This paper offers a comprehensive review of literature in that field, which we refer to collectively as assistive technology for cognition (ATC). ATC interventions address a range of functional activities requiring cognitive skills as diverse as complex attention, executive reasoning, prospective memory, self-monitoring for either the enhancement or inhibition of specific behaviours and sequential processing. ATC interventions have also been developed to address the needs of individuals with information processing impairments that may affect visual, auditory and language ability, or the understanding of social cues. The literature reviewed indicates that ATC interventions can increase the efficiency of traditional rehabilitation practices by enhancing a person's ability to engage in therapeutic tasks independently and by broadening the range of contexts in which those tasks can be exercised. More importantly, for many types of impairments, ATC interventions represent entirely new methods of treatment that can reinforce a person's residual intrinsic abilities, provide alternative means by which activities can be completed or provide extrinsic supports so that functional activities can be performed that might otherwise not be possible. Although the major focus of research in this field will continue to be the development of new ATC interventions, over the coming years it will also be critical for researchers, clinicians, and developers to examine the multi-system factors that affect usability over time, generalisability across home and community settings, and the impact of sustained, patterned technological interventions on recovery of function.