May 31, 2011

CorTec GmbH - a bridge between ideas and action

Brain machine interfaces that are able to read a paralysed patient’s desired movement from his or her brain and convert it into actual movement might be available in a few years’ time, if everything goes to plan.

After many years of intensive research, CorTec GmbH, a spin-off company of the University of Freiburg, now has a technology platform that is able to measure and interpret a person’s brain activity and drive muscles or artificial prostheses. Why and how was the company founded? How far has the technology come since the initial idea was first mooted?
A person is involved in an accident and suffers extensive injuries; the neurons linking the spinal marrow and the extremities are completely severed. Although the patient can now imagine how his hand grasps a cup of tea, his body no longer does what he wants. Can applied neuroscience help? Researchers from the Brain Machine Interface Initiative (BMII) at the University of Freiburg firmly believe that they can. They have spent more than ten years investigating how to drive and control muscles or prostheses using brain activity. They hope that one day they will be able to bridge connections using sensors, electrodes and computer chips. They hope to develop a platform that directly connects the brain with the machine. Is this the kind of science fiction that we know from William Gibson’s cyber punk novels?

Completely different structures are needed

“We are currently working on the BRAINCON technology platform and hope to be able to use it for such purposes in a few years’ time,” said Dr. Jörn Rickert, the managing director of CorTec GmbH, which was spun out of the University of Freiburg last year. “Some individual components will soon be granted marketing authorisation.” The researchers are already able to measure and record brain activity using electrodes and deduce from this the type of movement a patient wants to make. Using specific software and hardware, information from the brain will be translated into commands for the control of a prosthesis, or of leg or arm muscles. In experiments, volunteers have been able to move a cursor on a computer screen just through thought. The researchers believe that a paralysed patient might be able to learn to write and communicate again using the BRAINCON technology.
So science fiction becomes reality. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before BRAINCON can be commercialised. The technology needs to be tested in preclinical studies and then in clinical studies. So, why has CorTec already been established? “Turning an idea that resulted from basic research into a leading product requires structures quite different from those in a university research group,” said Rickert. Rickert, who did his doctorate in the Department of Neurobiology and Biophysics under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Ad Aertsen at the University of Freiburg on the representation of movement direction in the motor cortex. Rickert has been working on technology transfer issues for around five years. Supported by the university’s Technology Transfer Office, Rickert and his colleagues Carsten Mehring and Tonio Ball filed their first patent application in 2006. In 2005, the three had already received a grant for the development of a brain machine interface under the EXIST-Seed programme run by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Sophisticated quality management and final negotiations

Supported by EXIST-Seed funds and from 2007 onwards with additional funds from the BMBF’s GO-Bio programme, the team was able to further develop the technology and prepare to set up a company. While his colleagues worked with medical doctors, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, biologists and material researchers at the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg University Medical Centre on the scientific aspects of the project, Rickert focused on setting up the team, creating structures enabling interdisciplinary communication between the project partners, and preparing a project, a business plan and patent management. “Creating the structure to set up a company requires investors to provide financial injections,” said Rickert. “It is also necessary to put in place a sophisticated quality management structure, comply with standards and carefully compile all the required documents.”

The company was officially founded in September 2010. The interdisciplinary team has since introduced a top-notch quality management structure in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Thomas Stieglitz from the Department of Biomedical Microtechnology at the University of Freiburg’s Institute of Microsystems Technology. The business plan prepared by Rickert and his colleagues was shortlisted in the final round of the Science4Life funding initiative competition for the best business concept. In early 2011, the future entrepreneurs received a financial injection from the BMBF to establish their company. At present, the CorTec team is in contact with investors and hopes to commence preclinical studies with BRAINCON in a few months’ time. It is planned to commence the clinical phase in about two to three years. Some components of the technology platform will most likely be placed on the market sometime in 2011.

Being among the first

Technology transfer starts way before a prototype, not to mention a product, exists. It is a process that needs to be well prepared and can only be managed with financial and ideological support. Rickert and his colleagues are very grateful for the support they received from the Technology Transfer Office at the University of Freiburg and through the many non-university funding programmes. In the coming months, seven scientists will move from the university to the company, and two open positions still need to be filled.

The company will soon relocate to its own rooms at the University of Freiburg. The close contact with research partners is also expected to bear fruit in the future. “We have gained a technology lead in the last few years and we hope to be able to keep this despite the work being done by our competitors, in the USA and elsewhere,” said Rickert. CorTec GmbH is aiming to be among the first companies to offer permanent neurotechnological systems that will enable paralysed people to turn ideas into actions.

Source: BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

May 29, 2011

Identifying brain networks for specific mental states

Researchers at Stanford University have determined from brain-imaging data whether

experimental subjects are recalling events of the day, singing silently to themselves, performing mental arithmetic, or merely relaxing.

In the study, subjects engaged in these mental activities at their own natural pace, rather than in a controlled, precisely timed fashion as is typically required in experiments involving fMRI. The team used uninterrupted scan periods ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length.

The team assembled images from each separate scan. Instead of comparing “on-task” images with “off-task” images to see which regions were active during a distinct brain state compared with when the brain wasn’t in that state, the researchers focused on which collections, or networks, of brain regions were active in concert with one another throughout a given state

The researchers found that distinct mental states can be distinguished based on unique patterns of activity in coordinated networks — brain regions that are synchronously communicating with one another.

The team is using this network approach to develop diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders in which network function is disrupted.

M. D. Greicius, et al., Decoding Subject-Driven Cognitive States with Whole-Brain Connectivity Patterns, Cerebral Cortex, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhr099 (in press)

May 28, 2011

Listing of Brain Controlled Devices for sale now!

Welcome to the world of Brain Controlled Devices where a simple thought controls machines. I have been facinated by these for some time now and with the whirlwind of research going on in this area I thought you might like to get brought up to speed on most of whats available today. I currently own 2 of these devices in which me and my kids enjoy frequently.

1)Emotiv Epoch-Based on the latest developments in neurotechnology, the Emotiv EPOC is a revolutionary, new personal interface for human computer interaction.They have a developer and researcher kits or you can buy it for yourself to play games on your PC with the mastermind program.

2)Star Wars Science - Force Trainer- is a game for kids ages 8+. There is a headband with sensors that is worn and controls a fan motor which in turn controls the height of a ball. The object of the game is to concentrate on specific things or relax your mind. You can check out my full review of it here.

3)OCZ OCZMSNIA NIA - Neural Impulse Actuator-OCZ's Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) marks a new era in gaming. Rather than being a substitute for a mouse, the NIA is a pioneering peripheral to be used in conjunction with your mouse for a more immersive gaming experience. The NIA is compatible with any PC game using keyboard input... past, present, or future. Predefined profiles allow the gamer to develop their own NIA - memory to launch the desired behavior of their character and shoot with the "blink of an eye", without lifting a finger.

4)Mindflex Game - Another thought based game for kids. Similar to the Star Wars Mindforce game in that thoughts control the actions of a ball with an air fan. But different in the object of the game which is to manuver the ball through an obstacle course and can be played with 2 people. There is a sequel to this game in the Mindforce Duel in which 2 people battle is out simultaneously on the game board for control of the ball.

5)I-phone PLX X-wave- The X-wave is a thought control headband that links to your iPhone. There are games for X-wave on iphone(pad) by MindGames include W.I.L.D., Tug-of Mind

6)Neurosky mindset MINDWAVE-very similar to the Emotiv Epoch. Neurosky you can buy for under 100$ and has over 50 games available for it. There are also kits for rearchers as well

7)MYND-NeuroFocus’s new device, which it calls “Mynd,” has a few key features. It claims to get “full-brain coverage with dense-arrray EEG” sensors, yielding data “within seconds” of switching the device on. It can also network with any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device, like an iPhone or iPad. Unlike other EEG devices you may be familiar with, Mynd doesn’t need to use gel (that’s what’s meant by calling the device “dry”). And since the device isn’t too heavy itself, and can be linked to a wireless device, that basically makes it a mobile brain scanner. (See our earlier take on a “wearable” PET scanner for rats, here.) NeuroFocus envisions research panels conducted at home with the device; its CEO Dr. A.K. Pradeep tells Fast Company those might happen within the next eight months.

8)Mind technologies-exclusevely developes apps for the emotive headset. Some games created include mastermind,mindmouse,and think tac toe.

9)Interaxon-Has a headset and creates apps for the ipad.

10)3d glasses by interaxon- It's (3-D glasses) gives you the ability to watch a movie or televised content, and it knows the state that you're in, whether it be scared, excited, or bored.

11)Openvibe- Created a software platform for  BCI'S. There is a 10minute video explaining exactly how it works here

May 27, 2011

Buy the Force Trainer

At first appearance its like you really are becoming a Jedi or maybe developing telekinesis. So how does it work exactly?

How it works
The Star Wars Force Trainer uses a headset that measures brainwave activity. You get the ball to move in the pipe by concentrating or giving mental control thoughts.The thoughts control the strength of the air fan which in turn control the ball height.

The voices of Yoda and R2-D2 are used to guide players to levitate a ball (decorated like Luke’s training probe) up to three different heights, all to the accompaniment of sound effects and music from the popular films.

The game includes a wireless headset, similar to a pair of light headphones. Plastic arms place one electrode behind each ear and a third against your temple. Easy to adjust for different head sizes, it’s quite comfortable to wear.

-well made durable product
-FUN for kids and adults alike
-Good tool for explaining to children the power of the mind. -Not very expensive

-short battery life . You can purchase an addition ac adapter with the deluxe version

On a personal note I have used it at adult parties and it was a big hit. We would have shooters and tried doing other tasks like reading and walking around and still attain a Jedi level.

You can buy theStar Wars Science - Force Trainer here at at 54% off store price right now. Unfortunately there are only 3 left in stock though.
The Deluxe version also comes with an AC adapter

May 25, 2011

Brain Controlled Game List

Over the last few years there have been a few entries into the Brain Controlled Interface Arena. I'm sure this is only the beginning. Some of them are quite inexpensive and quite fun like Mattel's Mindflex which just came out with a sequel to it in Mindlfex Duel where by opponents can go in a head to head competition.

 So without further ado here is a short list of entries into this space that are available now.

1)Mattel's Mindflex Game
 - The idea is to move a ball higher(vertically) the harder you concentrate and to move the ball to the side(horizontally) you and are required to adjust the knob on the base of the game. There are 5 different obstacle challenges to try out and the board is adjustable so you can create your own. What we found was fun was to use it together. One of use would move the dial while the other used the headband. We would also time each other to see who could do it the fastest. You can read my full review of it here
2)Mindflex Duel Game
- Mindflex Duel is for the most part the same game as above except it lets two players engage in battles of intense "mind-eye" concentration.

3)Emotiv Epoch has 5 video games to date on their website. 2 are free right now. They are also working with game developers like Mind technologies to make more games in the future.

4)Star Wars Science - Force Trainer
-Another entry into the kids market in which you also have to move a ball. You can check out my full review of it here .
5)I-phone PLX X-wave- is a brainwave to iPhone interface which allows you to control iPhone apps at will. There are also a couple games available to play on the iPhone specifically for the X-wave

6)Neurosky's Mindwave headset is now available on amazon which you can find here MindWave Mobile with MyndPlay.

7)Interaxon Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband - Black. You can also get a couple games like "zenbound" for the iPad

8)OCZ OCZMSNIA NIA - Neural Impulse Actuator-OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator (nia) marks a new era in gaming. Rather than being a substitute for a mouse, the nia is a pioneering new peripheral to be used in conjunction with your mouse for a more immersive gaming experience.
Immerse Yourself into the Game!
The nia is compatible with any PC game using keyboard input… past, present, or future. Predefined profiles included with the software allow the gamer to develop their own nia—memory to launch the desired behavior of their character and shoot with the "blink of an eye", without lifting a finger.

Become Your Character
Streaming biopotentials into the computer and witnessing real-time feedback through the game will result in a novel way to experience virtual reality. Enter a virtual world where abstractions like keyboard commands are replaced by intentions converted into tensions and translated into command structures.

Where others have to practice reaction times, you can use reflex-based game play to get the better of your opponents by cutting your reaction time by 50%.

May 22, 2011

Bionic hand for 'elective amputation' patient

An Austrian man has voluntarily had his hand amputated so he can be fitted with a bionic limb.

The patient, called "Milo", aged 26, lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident a decade ago.
After his stump heals in several weeks' time, he will be fitted with a bionic hand which will be controlled by nerve signals in his own arm.

The surgery is the second such elective amputation to be performed by Viennese surgeon Professor Oskar Aszmann.

The patient, a Serbian national who has lived in Austria since childhood, suffered injuries to a leg and shoulder when he skidded off his motorcycle and smashed into a lamppost in 2001 while on holiday in Serbia.
Milo and his hybrid hand Milo used a hybrid hand before deciding on the operation
While the leg healed, what is called a "brachial plexus" injury to his right shoulder left his right arm paralysed. Nerve tissue transplanted from his leg by Professor Aszmann restored movement to his arm but not to his hand.

A further operation involving the transplantation of muscle and nerve tissue into his forearm also failed to restore movement to the hand, but it did at least boost the electric signals being delivered from his brain to his forearm, signals that could be used to drive a bionic hand.

Then three years ago, Milo was asked whether he wanted to consider elective amputation.
"The operation will change my life. I live 10 years with this hand and it cannot be (made) better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm," Milo told BBC News prior to his surgery at Vienna's General Hospital.

Read the rest of the original here article at BBC news 

May 19, 2011

"Dean of Invention" tv show

Dean Kamen is a globally renowned inventor with more than 400 patents, including the Segway, the insulin pump and the robotic prosthetic “Luke Arm.” This fall, the inventor will play the role of investigator—leaving his private island to jet around the world in search of the technologies of tomorrow.

In the world premiere original series Dean of Invention, Planet Green joins Kamen on his quest to find the next scientific breakthroughs that will improve life for all mankind.

There are a bunch of cool clips from the tv show around topics like: BCI interfaces, flying cars, cybernetics, renewable energy sources and alot more.
You can find them here

May 14, 2011

Imec BCI to be unveiled in feb 2011

IMEC emotivepoclike headset1 e1297248366713 New EEG Headset From Imec to Compete Existing Brain Reading ProductsAt the heart of the system is IMEC’s 8-channel ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) which consumes ultra-low-power (200µW only) and features high common mode rejection ratio (CMRR) of 120dB and low noise (input referred noise of 55nV/√Hz).

A brand new wireless brain-reading headset debuts this week at the Medical Design and Manufacturing conference and exhibition in Anaheim, California.

The Belgian Imec and Dutch Holst Centre say their device will enable continuous ambulatory monitoring, it could improve safety in the future (no more sleeping while driving a car) and also improve the joy of video games by adjusting the action and the environment to the player’s cognitive state (just like Emotiv EPOC). With future medical applications the headset might functioning as warning system for epileptic patients and even enabling typing text by thoughts to people with motoric disabilities to communicate.

The prototype headset doesn’t look worse than any other consumer brain-computer interface on the market, it has a unique futuristic shape. The flexible and magnetic dry electrodes could be practical in use, hopefully
they don’t cause too much pain on the skin.

The electronics, including the integrated circuit, radio, and controller chips are integrated in a small wireless EEG system of 25 x 35 x 5 millimeters, that can easily be embedded in headsets, helmets or other accessories.

This wireless EEG system has been integrated in a prototype EEG headset. The prototype headset can be easily adapted to the head of the user by extending a plastic bridge near the back of the head and by moving the part that contains the electronics upwards or downwards. On top of that, a spring suspension, guaranteeing improved robustness, and a magnetized pivoting mechanism can be used for fine adaptation to the head. The magnetic connection of the electrodes allows quick and easy replacement making it a hygienic solution. Gel injection is still possible if required for certain applications. Today the system relies on commercial off-the-shelf Ag/AgCl electrodes, which may lead to certain level of discomfort. According to Imec, in a few years, research on dry electrodes will result in increased comfort and higher signal quality.
According to Imec’s is mentioned in press release, the industry can get access to this technology by joining the Human++ program as research partner or by licensing agreements for further product development.

Will it be a real competition to existing market leaders such as Emotiv and NeuroSky? Future will tell.

May 10, 2011

Talk with a dolphin via underwater translation machine

A DIVER carrying a computer that tries to recognise dolphin sounds and generate responses in real time will soon attempt to communicate with wild dolphins off the coast of Florida. If the bid is successful, it will be a big step towards two-way communication between humans and dolphins.

Since the 1960s, captive dolphins have been communicating via pictures and sounds. In the 1990s, Louis Herman of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, found that bottlenose dolphins can keep track of over 100 different words. They can also respond appropriately to commands in which the same words appear in a different order, understanding the difference between "bring the surfboard to the man" and "bring the man to the surfboard", for example.

But communication in most of these early experiments was one-way, says Denise Herzing, founder of the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida. "They create a system and expect the dolphins to learn it, and they do, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans," she says.
Since 1998, Herzing and colleagues have been attempting two-way communication with dolphins, first using rudimentary artificial sounds, then by getting them to associate the sounds with four large icons on an underwater "keyboard".

By pointing their bodies at the different symbols, the dolphins could make requests - to play with a piece of seaweed or ride the bow wave of the divers' boat, for example. The system managed to get the dolphins' attention, Herzing says, but wasn't "dolphin-friendly" enough to be successful.

Herzing is now collaborating with Thad Starner, an artificial intelligence researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, on a project named Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). They want to work with dolphins to "co-create" a language that uses features of sounds that wild dolphins communicate with naturally.

Read the rest of the original article by MacGregor Campbell at New scientists magazine