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      Researchers force two mice to hang out and induce FOMO in a third

      Ars Contributors · / ArsTechnica · Friday, 14 May, 2021 - 20:24 · 1 minute

    Researchers force two mice to hang out and induce FOMO in a third

    Enlarge (credit: David Aubrey )

    Since its advent in 2005, a technique called optogenetics has made it vastly easier to link neural activity with behavior and to understand how neurons and brain regions are connected to each other. Neuroscientists just pick the (animal) neurons they’re interested in, genetically engineer them to express a light-responsive protein, and then stimulate them with the right type of light. This technique can be used to inhibit or excite a select subset of neurons in living, breathing, moving animals, illuminating which neural networks dictate the animals' behaviors and decisions.

    Taking advantage of work done in miniaturizing the optogenetic hardware, researchers have now used optogenetics to alter the activity in parts of the brain that influence social interactions in mice. And they’ve exerted a disturbing level of control over the way the mice interact.

    Going small

    A big limitation for early optogenetic studies was that the wires and optical fibers required to get light into an animal’s brain also get in the animals’ way, impeding their movements and potentially skewing results. Newer implantable wireless devices were developed about five years ago, but they can only be placed near certain brain regions. They're also too tiny to accommodate many circuit components and receiver antennas, and they have to be programmed beforehand. Pity the poor would-be mind controllers who have to deal with such limited tools.

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      Neural implant lets paralyzed person type by imagining writing

      John Timmer · / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 May, 2021 - 17:03

    An artist

    Enlarge / An artist's schematic of the system. (credit: Nature)

    Elon Musk's Neuralink has been making waves on the technology side of neural implants, but it hasn't yet shown how we might actually use implants. For now, demonstrating the promise of implants remains in the hands of the academic community.

    This week, the academic community provided a rather impressive example of the promise of neural implants. Using an implant, a paralyzed individual managed to type out roughly 90 characters per minute simply by imagining that he was writing those characters out by hand.

    Dreaming is doing

    Previous attempts at providing typing capabilities to paralyzed people via implants have involved giving subjects a virtual keyboard and letting them maneuver a cursor with their mind. The process is effective but slow, and it requires the user's full attention, as the subject has to track the progress of the cursor and determine when to perform the equivalent of a key press. It also requires the user to spend the time to learn how to control the system.

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      A new way to plug a human brain into a computer: Via veins

      WIRED · / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 31 October, 2020 - 12:10 · 1 minute

    human brain, motherboards, chip and artificial intelligence concept and neural tech and brain computer interfaces.

    Enlarge / human brain, motherboards, chip and artificial intelligence concept and neural tech and brain computer interfaces.

    The hard part of connecting a gooey, thinking brain to a cold, one-ing and zero-ing computer is getting information through your thick skull—or mine, or anyone’s. The whole point of a skull, after all, is keeping a brain safely separate from [waves hands at everything].

    So if that brain isn’t yours, the only way to tell what’s going on inside it is inference. People make very educated guesses based on what that brain tells a body to do—like, if the body makes some noises that you can understand (that’s speech) or moves around in a recognizable way. That’s a problem for people trying to understand how the brain works, and an even bigger problem for people who because of injury or illness can’t move or speak. Sophisticated imaging technologies like functional magnetic resonance can give you some clues. But it’d be great to have something more direct. For decades, technologists have been trying to get brains to interface with computer keyboards or robot arms, to get meat to commune with silicon.

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