EEG for your Nintendo Wii

Emotiv is a company trying to do a neuro (EEG) interface to game platforms.

Emotiv Home

Seems ambitious. Do EEG interfaces have a fast enough information transfer rate (bits/sec) for gaming? Maybe it’s not necessary if the game is just detecting your “mood” in conjunction with a standard keypad controller but seems to me you’d want to try and boost bit rates (as several EEG groups, like this one at Fraunhofer, are doing) as much as possible.

Anyone used this device?

Computer memory goes 3D

Finally, they’ve figured out something that neural systems have capitalized on for a while: Using all 3 dimensions. Check it out:

NYT article on Stuart Parkin and racetrack memory
IBM Almaden page on racetrack memory

And a nice semi-technical discussion from EE Times on current 2D RAM and how racetrack memory takes advantage of 3 dimensions. A key concept here (and an old one, see bubble memory below) is “massless motion”: Applying a current to a tape moves the magnetic domains along in a similar manner to mechanically moving the tape.

On the macro scale, a similar type of memory called bubble memory was available up to the early 1980s when it was replaced with hard disks. Seems like high speed (pushing the correct magnetic portion of the nanowire to the read head) and doing so without excessive current are what really make this a viable technology now.

Your Brain Is A Cartographer

The concept that the brain holds maps of the surface of the body in the primary sensory and motor cortex is a fascinating but well known fact to the field of neuroscience since the early work of Wilder Penfield. What is less broadly appreciated is the concept of “peripersonal space”. A new book by Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee describes peripersonal space in the following way:

The maps that encode your physical body are connected directly, immediately, personally to a map of every point in that space and also map out your potential to perform actions in that space. Your self does not end where your flesh ends, but suffuses and blends with the world, including other beings. […] Your brain also faithfully maps the space beyond your body when you enter it using tools. Take hold of a long stick and tap it on the ground. As far as your brain is concerned, your hand now extends to the tip of that stick. […] Moreover, this annexed peripersonal space is not static, like an aura. It is elastic. […] It morphs every time you put on or take off clothes, wear skis or scuba gear, or wield any tool. […] When you eat with a knife and fork, your peripersonal space grows to envelop them. Brain cells that normally represent space no farther out than your fingertips expand their fields of awareness outward, along the length of each utensil, making them part of you.

What I appreciate about this, besides the stretchy comic book characters that it makes me think about, is that it provides a powerful perspective to begin piecing together a mass of disparate neuroscience data, which the Blakeslee’s capitalize on.

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If dopamine fails, try glutamate

Happy Labor Day (US)! Topping the NYT most popular articles list right now is an interesting article about a new schizophrenia treatment that targets certain glutamate receptors unlike previous dopaminergic drugs. The drug, which is being developed by Eli Lilly, is partially due to this interesting observation:

For decades, psychiatrists have known that users of PCP, a street drug sometimes called angel dust, have symptoms nearly identical to those of people with schizophrenia. By the 1980s, scientists had discovered that PCP blocked brain receptors that are triggered by an amino acid called glutamate. This led some companies and scientists to study ways to stimulate glutamate receptors as a treatment for schizophrenia.

But the brain has many different kinds of glutamate receptors, and figuring out how to stimulate or block them in medically beneficial ways has proved complicated. Instead of focusing on the receptors blocked by PCP, Dr. Schoepp concentrated on modulating the action of glutamate receptors in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an area responsible for personality and learning.

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A Compact Multiphoton 3D Imaging System for Recording Fast Neuronal Activity

People have been talking about doing this for many years, but this article is the first I’ve seen that describes a practical two-photon microscope that I’ve seen that can image a decent field of view (e.g., 150 microns x 150 microns x 150 microns) at “over 100 volumes per second, at the resolution limit.” And the whole thing — laser included — costs around $40,000. Paper shows sample images as well as schematics and protocols.

— posted by Ed