MIT has created glucose fuel cell to power implanted brain-computer interfaces. Read the paper here. It is now possible for us to implant micro-devices in your skull or spinal cords that would power itself and last, theoretically, as long as you dont run out of glucose. In other words, the device can and will run indefinitely. The cell reportedly able to produce 3.4 uW/cm2 steady-state power and up to 180 uW/ cm2 peak power. In case you may not already know, human brain require only 20 watts to work. That amount barely lights up a bulb. And yet, the kind of processing we all do in our everyday thoughts and actions, speak of how efficient is the brain. For the same amount of performance, a computer would need 10 megawatts! That’s about what a small hydroelectric plant produce. So this MIT fuel cell would definitely be something worth following. Please, show me the power!
Additional Notes: By the way, check out the video of Jeopardy game played with IBM’s Watson. You’ll get to see the immense power needed to drive Watson just to answer some of the questions in the game. (Though of course Watson won.)
According to a new study in a Harvard lab, when we are born, we are very likely to have been all wired up. But as we age and experience life, our brains choose which connections to keep. Sound strange? Indeed! Most of us would probably believe the other way is true. As we experience the world, our brains learn and new synaptic connections are made, or the existing connections are strengthened. That’s how we are getting wiser as we aged.
According to the report (Pervasive Synaptic Branch Removal in the Mammalian Neuromuscular System at Birth), “the embryonic axons become maximally connected just before birth… Extensive die off of terminal branches occurs during the first several postnatal days”. (Synapze elimination!) A word of caution though. The report quantify the period as “just before and 2 weeks after birth”. So, don’t interpret too much into the report and lose your mind over this!
However, the interesting question raized is, like the authors explained, does that explain how an adult eventually become a narrow minded “wise man”? Perhaps with this insight, you wont be that bothered with your bugging and nagging old folks?
Did you know him – Phineas Gage? He was the history most famous survival of a freak accident where a rod punched through his left cheek and popped out at the top of his head. “He” survived. I placed the quote “He” because after this accident, Gage was no longer the same person. It was a miracle. But whether it was meant as a blessings wasn’t quite clear to many of his friends. He became a completely different person. Read more about him from the wiki page. If you would like to see the iron bar, please visit Harvard Medical School Warren Anatomical Museum. Scientist had been using this case to examine how the damage to the white matter that connect various parts of the brain could effect such a change in behavior as Gage survived. For an even more interesting read about Gage and some explanation related to the white matter, follow this link to the paper
We’re yet again another step closer to Stars Wards bionic technology, like The Luke Arm by Dean Kamen, except this is entirely based on Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) or some may call it Brain-Machine Interface. Read more from Nature. Or Enjoy the video below.
The article in Nature also has timeline that nicely (though briefly) showed the incremental progress of this BCI technology.
Scientifically, it is described in a paper called “Photovoltaic retinal prosthesis with high pixel density”. In layman, it is a step towards a functional bionic eye. Powered by LIGHT (no more batteries!). Here’s the article from BBC.
Macular degeneration is a real and serious condition that may result in the lost of vision. According to the data from Wolframalpha, it hits the female population more than the males with an average age of 77 and over half a million patients a year in US alone.
Each of the human eye has over 7 million cones (like the pixel on computer screen) in our fovea centralis (like the focal point where you have sharp vision). So, even though the amazing scientific report says “high density”, I wonder how far are we away from that 7 million figure? To top that, the size of fovea is no more than 0.3mm in diameter. Compare that to today’s digital cinema screen of 4k resolution (about 8 million pixels) and not forgetting the gigantic life size, there looks to be a very long way to create what nature/God have given us. Besides, I wonder if light energy is the way to go? The fovea comprises less than 1% of retinal size but takes up over 50% of the visual cortex in the brain. That simply means the energy consumption could reach a value beyond what the light is capable of providing naturally. I guess the best bet now is still to eat healthy with more greens and salmons.
Cryoloop reminds me of kryptonite, the fictional material that revealed superman’s weakness. No. They are entirely different substance and topic all together. I linked them simply because of the ‘K’ and ‘C’ which are interchangeable consonant characters. Well depending on which language you subscribe to. Cryoloop is in fact a method of cortical cooling. It is a reversible deactivation technique in the assessment of neural function. OK. If you consider deactivation is equivalent to weakening, then cryoloop is like kryptonite. You can selectively weaken the chosen cortex to study its neural function. Why is it worth mentioning? Because we’ve imaging techniques to look inside the brain. We have stimulation techniques to stimulate the brain. Of course reversibly deactivating technique is the missing puzzle to complete this picture perfect scenario of brain research.
Another death. The fourth @ Harvard Medical School’s New England Primate Research Center. Sad. More training needed for the personnel involved. But still science must continue, or what else do you think we should do?
Years ago, I saw how a monkey was able to control a robotic arm through its thought at getting its favorite food. I thought that was neat.
Today, I saw another new development – Restoration of grasp following paralysis through brain-controlled stimulation of muscles.
Grasp is a much finer motor control than moving a robotic arm. This work also demonstrated the bypassing of the spinal cord to send the neural signals directly to the muscles. Guess this brain-machine interface may happen sooner than we imagined.
But first, we must overcome the challenge of opening up the skull and implanting micro-electrodes to capture the brain signals. If the safety aspect of this implant is cleared, I believe it wont take long for us human to accept it much like implanting silicone gels to enhance the precious assets of some female creatures. The benefits of restoring paralysis go beyond the obvious. It actually means the restoration of one’s dignity. Something many of the healthy normal human would not understand. It means, you no longer has to depend on others to do simple thing such as switching a TV channel. It’s the pride of being free that matters. The pride of being independent. All over Again.
25 years old. That’s not too bad for a macaque. It’s about time.
Before they put him to sleep, he was suspected to be suffering from prostate cancer. A harden nodule conspicuously felt near his lower abdomen area.
Science being science. Nothing should go in vain. They experimented on his small little brain, a yet unproven brain lesions method – microbubbles with focused ultra sound at low power level. Ten locations were targeted. MR Imaging and subsequent histologic examination would provide clues to the success of the experiment. A method for noninvasive tissue ablation in the brain is what this is all about. It means something. Perhaps a great deal. To some of us.
5pm. It started.
Did I witness a premeditated murder or simply euthanasia with an amazing exhibit at the frontier of science? Well, at least it was better than seeing a guillotine.
12am. It ended.
Goodbye Nilknarf. RIP.
Nilknarf reminded me of the documentary movie – Project Nim (2011).
While the circumstantial factors were obviously different, one thing remains. Human never stopped using other creatures for our own benefits – Science. Food. Companionship. Entertainment. Transportation. Sports. You name them. We have them. One way or another. Dead or Alive. But who is to judge? For what is right or wrong? Science for mankind or simply pure selfishness?
I wondered. Did Nilknarf’s fellow friends, caged next to him 24/7, notice his absence? Perhaps. I would find out one day.