Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Disabled student in class room.

Paralyzed Man Writes, Using Only Imagination — and an Algorithm

With implanted electrodes, the volunteer, 65, achieved 90 characters per minute

The science media has been abuzz these last few days with news of man paralyzed from the neck down who was able to type using only his thoughts — communicating via a brain implant: A 65-year-old man had two grids of tiny electrodes implanted on the surface of his brain. The electrodes read electrical activity in the part of the brain that controls hand and finger movements. Although the man was paralyzed from the neck down, he imagined writing letters softly with his hand. With an algorithm, researchers then figured out the neural patterns that went with each imagined letter and transformed those patterns into text on a screen. Anushree Dave, “Brain implants turn imagined handwriting into text on a…

Legs of disabled person.

#3 AI Smash Hits 2020: AI Can Help Paralyzed People Move Again

The human brain can interface directly with electronics

Our Walter Bradley Center director, Robert J. Marks, is back with the second instalment of the 2020 Smash Hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Eric Holloway about ways AI can help people with disabilities. A major, often unrealized, fact is that the human brain can work directly with electronic devices, provided that they are positioned or implanted so as to interface with neurons. Many possibilities are being explored. And the “exoskeleton” is our #3. Our story begins at 10:12 min: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Robert J. Marks: We’re up to number three, where…

The  man wiht a CPU.

Will a Brain-Computer Interface Be a Boon or a Nightmare?

BCI is probably coming anyway, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing largely depends on how we choose to use it

Talk about a scary headline from an impressive research group!: “The Brain-Computer Interface is coming — and we are just so not ready for it” from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Okay, what’s going on? Both more and less than we think, depending on what we focus on. The Bulletin, published since 1947, is best known for a Doomsday Clock which expresses how close the editors think we are to nuclear war and climate apocalypse. An article in the current edition of the Bulletin covers the remarkable advances in prosthetics in recent years, in hooking up neurons (which use electrical signals) to electronic limbs, enabling much better control of prostheses. But the startling thing to realize is where researchers…

Human brain with an implanted chip.

Paralyzed Subject Gains Control Much Faster via a New Technique

The earlier technique for controlling a cursor through brain-computer interface worked but it required constant relearning

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have enabled a participant who is paralyzed in all four limbs to control a computer cursor, using only brain activity, by tapping into the brain’s own natural learning system. Without tapping into that system, brain-computer interface (BCI) needs extensive daily retraining in order to work. “It’s like asking someone to learn to ride a bike over and over again from scratch,” said study senior author Karunesh Ganguly, MD, PhD, an associate professor of in the UC San Francisco Department of Neurology. “Adapting an artificial learning system to work smoothly with the brain’s sophisticated long-term learning schemas is something that’s never been shown before in a paralyzed person.” Nicholas Weiler, “First ‘Plug and…

Happy man on wheelchair in nature. Exploring forest wilderness on an accessible dirt path.

Through AI, a Paralyzed Man Has Regained the Sense of Touch

In 2016, through advanced technology, he regained the ability to move individual fingers

According to researchers, Ian Burkhart, whose hands and legs were paralyzed in a diving accident in 2010, has regained the sense of touch,, through a brain implant, as opposed to simply the ability to move a hand: The breakthrough came from analysis of years of data collected from NeuroLifeTM program study participant Ian Burkhart, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2010 when diving into the ocean, and now lives with paralysis in his hands and legs. “When the chip was placed on the surface of Ian’s motor cortex in 2014, it was not known that the signals related to object touch could be observed because of the paralysis,” said lead author and Battelle Principal Research Scientist Patrick Ganzer. “Furthermore,…