Neuroengineering and the MIT TR35 innovators

Today MIT’s Technology Review magazine released its annual list of innovators under the age of 35 who were nominated for recognition. Interestingly, almost a full quarter are doing work relating to or impacting the field of neuroengineering — including ways to tag synapses with quantum dots, activate neurons remotely, improve machine vision, classify whole-brain states for prosthetic purposes, and make nanowire arrays.

http://www.technologyreview.com/TR35/

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High-Res fMRI PCA Analysis of Face Recognizing Cortex

A recent study by Grill-Spector, Sayres, and Ress uses high-resolution fMRI imaging to explore the fusiform face area, a part of the temporal lobe known to activate when looking at faces.

They do a PCA analysis on their study and find 3 principal components that account for 95% of the variance, and the components related to 1) faces, 2) sculptures/cars and 3) animals. From the study:

Our results suggest two hypotheses for the functional organization in this part of cortex. First, the face- and nonface-selective subregions may be part of a common cortical region, which processes both face and nonface stimuli. Alternatively, the face-selective subregions may constitute the ‘‘true FFA’’ (and may contain only highly selective face neurons), whereas the other subregions may comprise a segregated subsystem. However, the fact that face-selective patches are not spatially contiguous on the cortex (Fig. 5) raises the question of which of them might be considered the FFA, or whether these spatially segregated subregions might behave functionally as a computational unit. Future studies may elucidate whether these face patches are interconnected, which would allow them to operate as one computational unit (for example, by studying connectivity between subregions in the FFA).

The study also contrasts the use of high-resolution fMRI, capable of resolving at 1mm voxels with the standard fMRI, capable of resolving at 3mm.

Two neural prosthetics papers

The July 13 issue of Nature included some neural prosthetics papers, one of which was the paper reporting 9 months of stimulation of Matthew Nagle, a tetraplegic who received the first trial of the 96-electrode BrainGate implant in his right precentral gyrus (motor cortex (MI) for arm). The authors were Leigh R. Hochberg, Mijail D. Serruya, Gerhard M. Friehs, Jon A. Mukand, Maryam Saleh, Abraham H. Caplan, Almut Branner, David Chen, Richard D. Penn and John P. Donoghue.

picture of Matthew Nagle using the BrainGate implant picture of the BrainGate multi-electrode array
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