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Mind controlled robitics

  1. Aug 19, 2003 #1
    aren't those mechanical legs disabled people have controled mentally somehow? what's the techonology behind that? also i think i remember seeing on tv a while back some sort of new game that hooked up to your fingers and temples that could read your thoughts or something, i think it was a bowling game but i forget.

    how far away is mind controlled technology? and how do you think'd be used?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2003 #2


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    AFAIK, no artificial limbs have yet been developed that can be controlled directly by the brain. There are some that pickup electrical impulses intended for muscles which are no longer present. I once saw an artificial arm with electrodes at one end that could read two of the major nerve bundles for the forearm. When the patient attempted to use the muscles that would have bent his wrist downward, the fingers on the hand closed. When he tried to bend his wrist upward the fingers opened.

    I have seen the videogame to which you referred, or at least a version of it. The one I saw was slalom skiing. To make the skier turn right, you had to make the left side of your brain (the side that controls your right hand) active. To turn left, he must think with the right side of your brain. Obviously, this is a far cry from "operating a machine with your thoughts", but it is a beginning.
  4. Aug 19, 2003 #3


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    I had heard something about Microsoft coming out with mind controlled web surfing controlls. How much truth, or even when its expected is unknown to me.

    I do know that I saw an episode, I think the same one with the Skiing game, where a man who was paralyed had cathodes implanted in each temple. After practicing various thoughts, like moving his fingers, he was able to manipulate a pc mouse cursor.

    We almost need a sort of junction point so that we could hook up to the machince, and have a new nerve junction to send specialized signals for operation with machines. Or maybe they can do the artificial esp thing, like that microsoft rumour.
  5. Aug 20, 2003 #4
    We are the Borg

    You will be assimilated

    Resistance is futile
  6. Aug 20, 2003 #5


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  7. Feb 3, 2004 #6


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    Had to revive this thread because I just read the coolest artical in Pop Sci.

    In a laboratory at Duke University, research into this type of technology is being conducted. It has been discovered by these researchers that this is much simpler to achieve then we have been making it. In the past it was thought that, in order to decode a signal from the brain, one would have to single out the individual neurons involved in that message. Separating those few neurons out of the billions present was a daunting task, to say the least. Keeping track of and decoding the millions of coordinated firings looked even more impossible. But it has now been discovered that such complicated computations are not necessary at all.

    The secret is in understanding what researchers refer to as the "orchestral nature" of the cerebral neurons. For example, suppose an entire orchestra strikes the opening cords to Beethoven's fifth Symphony. If you found yourself in a situation that limited your hearing to just the first chair trombone and the timpani, it is likely that you would still be able to identify which piece of music was being played. It turns out the neurons in the human brain function in very much the same way. By monitoring a few key neurons, it is possible to know what large complex information is being sent as a command to the body.

    Experimentation began with a rat. The rat was trained to press a lever for a food reward. Electrodes were then attached to neurons in the rat's brain to monitor electrical activity. Through the background noise of ordinary neural functioning, a certain pattern would repeat itself every time the rat moved its paw to push the lever. Once the pattern had been recognized to a high degree of confidence, the reward dispenser was attached directly to the electrodes and the lever was disconnected from the system. The system function properly, and whenever the rat pushed the lever, the machine dispensed a reward.

    The amazing part is, after a short amount of time, the rat discovered the new nature of the connection. In time, the rat gave up on the bother of actually physically moving its from paw to push the lever! He learned that he could simply "think about it", and the machine would dispensed a reward.

    The research team chiefly responsible for this breakthrough is headed up by a man named Miguel Nicolelis. They now have a macaque (monkey) in their lab sitting at a chair staring at a computer screen. A dot moves around the computer screen and when it holds still, a circle moves across the screen to encompass the dot. The sides of the circle then begin to thicken until they come into contact with the dot. The computer is generating the dot. The monkey is moving the circle with its brain. Wires run from the monkey's scull across the floor and into the next room, where the monkey's neuronal impulses are operating a robotic arm.

    Researchers can place an object within reach of the arm, and the computer will generate a dot to represent that object on the monkey's monitor. The monkey thinks about reaching for the dot, but his arm does not move (as a matter of fact, he is strapped to the chair). But in the next room, the robotic arm moves over to the test object, and the hand closes until gripping the object.

  8. Feb 4, 2004 #7
    One thing I don't really like about current projects to create a direct like between a brain and some kind of device is that in essence it's little more than a glorified EEG. Little is being done to understand the actual functioning of the brain itself.
  9. Feb 4, 2004 #8


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    But the shame is how long have we had eeg's and not exploited this potential. Over glorified or not, I'd love to sit my lazy self down and control my computer in a near vegitated state.

    Thanks for the info lurch, that is pretty awesome.
  10. Feb 5, 2004 #9
    However, without any evidence proving otherwise, how certain can we be that purposely modifying one's brainwaves in such a manner doesn't have any unwanted side effects?

    Then again, humans are famous for using technologies on a wide scale before discovering it wasn't such a good idea after all (DDT, CFCs, to name just some examples).

    Better safe than sorry?
  11. Feb 5, 2004 #10


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    The program in question does not involve modifying one's brain waves. On the contrary, in false software designed to modify its self to conform to the brain waves of the individual user.

    Your point, however, is well-taken. Although modification of the brain waves is not the purpose or intent of this device, this does not precluded from being a possible side effect. I believe that's why so much experimentation on animals is currently being conducted. Of course, it would be up to to the individual amputee to determine how much risk he is willing to take to have his limb once again.
  12. Feb 18, 2004 #11


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    I just watched a really interesting program last night on UNC TV. It was about intergrating electronics with the human body.

    One lady, who went blind due to diabeties(spelling) went through an implant in her brain to attempt to give her some form of vision. The implant contained 140 phosphens, which if memory serves are the same things that coat the glass on your monitor or television. When an electron strikes these, they light up. Several of them working together produce an image.

    Anyhow, this implant was placed in her head, with an output running out the back of her skull, which hooked up to a computer, and a special set of glasses, which had a video camera on them.

    The device allows doesn't restore vision, but instead produces a dotted outline of objects. With more contacts on the implant, it seems better systems could be designed.

    So anyhow, she was able to see objects enough to navigate around, but no detail at all.


    Another researcher has hooked up an implant in a monkeys head to allow him to read the neuron signals as the monkey does specific actions. They setup a video game, where the monkey uses a joystick to move a small green dot into a yellow circle. When the monkey does this, he gets a reward of apple juice.

    So they get the association setup, and disable the joystick. They rerouted the information from the monkeys brain and wrote it to control the green dot. Even without the joystick functioning, the monkey was able to complete the excercise.

    The researcher is using this info to produce computer controlled mechanical limbs that work by thinking about using that limb.

    Its really quite amazing whats going on here in NC and at MIT. Before long, we might actually have bionic ppl running around.
  13. Feb 19, 2004 #12
    Yes, that was a fascinating show: particularly the monkey research because it involved electrodes implanted INTO the brain rather than just resting on the surface, & so enabled many more neurons to be involved in the communication.

    The researchers recorded the brain signals that were generated as the monkey moved her arm to move the joystick to move the dot into the circle to get a reward. Subsequently, the joystick was disabled and the monkey learned to move the dot on the screen without it, just by using the wired connection from her brain to the computer. The assumption (at least the way the reporter presented it) was that the neural signals that were being recorded were the ones that the monkey's brain used to control her arm and the implication was that this could be a precursor to development of brain-controlled prosthetics.

    There may be a fallacy in that, though. You could argue that the monkey was actually thinking about moving the green dot, not about moving her arm in that particular configuration of motion.

    Still, its an intriguing line of research.
  14. Feb 19, 2004 #13


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    In fact, that is almost certainly the case. The article I read in Scientific American was on that same project but, at the time the reporter from SciAm was there, the monkey was not moving at all. She was making no effort to move her arm, she was just moving the circle on the monitor. Even the rat on which they conducted their initial research learned that she could get the food reward without physically pushing the lever. This reveals not only the posibility of brain-controlled prosthetics, but also lays to rest some of the fears regarding the mind's ability to adapt and cope with the changes.

    And with regard to the usefullness of prosthetics, the question of wether the monkey is thinking abuot moving her arm or not is moot. Whether person is trying to move their real arm, or just focussing on the desired result (like grasping an object in view) should not mattre, so long as they can cause their artificial arm to reach out and take hold of the object.
  15. Feb 19, 2004 #14


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    Seems like I remember reading something about how a brain would be able to realize the new connections (computer chip) and find new ways to utilize it. So like Lurch said, even though the monkey is now just thinking about moving the dot, if that same test was rigged to control a robot arm to open a spout that poured apple juice out, instead of a video game, I'm sure a way would be found.
  16. Mar 24, 2004 #15


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    Brain waves control video game


    Just found this, thought it was pretty interesting. Using the same old proven EEG and blue tooth, they've devised a link between mind and machine.

    Imagine the potential, artificial esp, being able to communicate to say, anyone, regardless of language. Not to mention the assistance it can provide to the paralyzed and other injured people in the world.
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