Thanks to an EEG headset and a compressed air cannon, destroying things with your brain just got a whole lot easier.
Think Cards

LVL1, a hackerspace in Louisville Kentucky, has designed this rig that fulfills the fantasies of every disgruntled person ever: by looking at something (in this case, an unlucky watermelon) and concentrating hard enough, to can blow it into bite-size chunks.

No genetic tinkering or use of Force is required, just a hacked up Star Wars Force Trainer (which reads brainwaves, sort of) that controls a CO2 cannon jammed up the wazoo of a watermelon. Concentrate hard enough, and the headset will sense the power of your will and signal the cannon to fire, turning the watermelon (which, for the record, didn’t ever do anything to you) into a tasty pulp.

Instructions to build your own “Mind over Melon” brain explodey device will be available soon on the LVL1 wiki, but until it’s ready, just watch the video below over and over while repeating “no power in the ‘verse can stop me.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

People too complicated

for machines to read thoughts

Nicky Phillips SCIENCE

January 29, 2011

Rolling debate ... experts are undecided about what brain scans can reveal.
Rolling debate … experts are undecided about what brain scans can reveal.

BEFORE the US presidential election in 2008 scientists reported they had, quite literally, peered into the minds of swinging voters.

When a group of people were shown the words ”Democrat” or ”Republican” while undergoing a brain scan they showed high levels of activity in a region called the amygdala.

The scientists concluded that because this region was associated with anxiety, the participants felt that way about the political parties.

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The conclusion was strongly resisted by a group of rival neuroscientists who published a response to the study several days after it was reported in The New York Times.

It was not possible to determine whether a person was anxious simply by looking at the activity in a particular brain region, they said. ”This is because brain regions are typically engaged by many mental states, and thus one-to-one mapping between a brain region and a mental state is not possible.”

This stand-off typifies the rolling debate over what brain scans can really show.

To date, many studies claim to have found the regions of the brain for things as diverse as love, sarcasm, sex drive and even voting choice, fuelling the idea that the brain is made up of modules and individual parts.

Brain scans are generally taken with functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which has, for the first time, allowed scientists to watch the flow of activity in the brain in real time without cutting open the skull.

But despite the clarity that comes with fMRI, it does not take photographs.

An American psychologist, Diane Beck, said the highlighted region of the brain in an fMRI did not show not a direct measure of that region’s activity.

”The construction of the colourful images we see in journals and magazines are considerably more complicated, and considerably more processed, than the photo-like quality of the images might lead one to believe,” said Dr Beck, of the University of Illinois.

So has fMRI really bridged human understanding of how the thoughts, emotions and feelings of our mind are linked to the soggy, 1.5-kilogram mass of tissue inside the skull?

The debate around fMRI’s powers for probing the mind came to a head in 2009 when an American review found almost half of fMRI studies of emotion and personality had overstated their data linking a specific brain region to an emotion or personality trait.

In a recent article published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, an American psychologist Gregory Miller agreed. ”The rush in recent decades to construe a host of psychological events as being biological events is, at best, premature,” he wrote.

Ulrich Schall, a psychiatrist and psychologist at the University of Newcastle, said fMRI did not directly measure brain activity; instead it measured blood flow in the brain, which increased as neurons became active, and was therefore an indirect measure of their activity.

When someone was performing a specific mental task it was not possible to clearly identify the biological basis of that task in the brain, Associate Professor Schall said. That was just the interpretation of a scientist.

And unless studies were well designed, he said, the interpretation might be meaningless.

But fMRI clearly had a role in studying the brain. It was good for measuring brain development and studying people with mental disorders, he said.

Associate Professor Schall said scientists were confident of the function of primary processing regions of the brain, such as the areas associated with speech, vision and movement.

But scientists were still far away from understanding the basis of more complex cognitive functions such as numeracy, social interactions, intentions of people and planning, he said. ”These things are certainly not localised and need the combination of many parts of the brain.”

Like many scientists, he believed everything that people experienced in their minds, such as thoughts and feelings, had a physical or biological origin.

”But I use the word believe because I don’t have final proof of that,” he said.

Sourced & publ;ishd  by Henry Sapiecha

Brain scans could steer career choices

IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — Your talents and abilities could someday be revealed through a brain scan, possibly guiding your career choices, U.S. scientists say.

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine, scanned 6,000 volunteers in an effort to build a brain “map” that could match particular areas to particular skills and knowledge, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

While being scanned, volunteers performed cognitive tests to see if there was a connection between brain and aptitude, the newspaper said.

Researchers said the amount of gray matter, areas of the brain used for computations, and white matter, used for communication, and where they were positioned seemed to suggest how good someone would be at a number of tasks including arithmetic, learning and remembering facts and figures.

The results, though preliminary, suggest brain scans could eventually be used to help a person consider a career path, psychologist Professor Richard Haier said.

“A person’s pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is related to their brain structure, so there is a possibility that brain scans could provide unique information that would be helpful for vocational choice,” he said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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‘Computer Viruses gone to your head?’

Science (May 26, 2010) — A scientist at the University of Reading has become the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus.

Dr Mark Gasson, from the School of Systems Engineering, contaminated a computer chip which had been inserted into his hand as part of research into human enhancement and the potential risks of implantable devices.

These results could have huge implications for implantable computing technologies used medically to improve health, such as heart pacemakers and cochlear implants, and as new applications are found to enhance healthy humans.

Dr Gasson says that as the technology behind these implants develops, they become more vulnerable to computer viruses.

“Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and manipulating data,” he said. “They are essentially mini computers. This means that, like mainstream computers, they can be infected by viruses and the technology will need to keep pace with this so that implants, including medical devices, can be safely used in the future.”

Dr Gasson will present his results next month at the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Australia, which he is also chairing.

A high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted into Dr Gasson’s left hand last year. Less sophisticated RFID technology is used in shop security tags to prevent theft and to identify missing pets.

The chip has allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone. It has also enabled him to be tracked and profiled. Once infected, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it. Should other devices have been connected to the system, the virus would have been passed on.

Dr Gasson said: “By infecting my own implant with a computer virus we have demonstrated how advanced these technologies are becoming and also had a glimpse at the problems of tomorrow.

“Much like people with medical implants, after a year of having the implant, I very much feel that it is part of my body. While it is exciting to be the first person to become infected by a computer virus in this way, I found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not. However we must be mindful of the new threats this step brings.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 28th May 2010

Hopelessness may increase risk of stroke


MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) Healthy middle-aged women with feelings of hopelessness may develop neck artery thickening, a risk factor for stroke, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School looked at 559 women — average age 50, 62 percent white, 38 percent African-American — who were generally healthy and did not show signs of clinical cardiovascular disease.
Susan A. Everson-Rose and colleagues measured hopelessness with a questionnaire assessing expectancies regarding future and personal goals. Depressive symptoms were measured with a 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Thickness of neck arteries was assessed using ultrasound.

The study, published online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, found hopelessness — negative thinking and feelings of uselessness — affects arteries independent of clinical depression and before women develop clinically relevant cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found a consistent, progressive and linear association between increasing neck artery thickness and rising levels of hopelessness.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009


Wheelchair operates by power of thought


ZARAGOZA, Spain (UPI) — Spanish university scientists have developed a wheelchair controlled by the power of thought, promising to transform life for people with severe disabilities.

The wheelchair, developed at the University of Zaragoza, has a laser sensor and a screen that displays a real-time, three-dimensional virtual reconstruction of the wheelchair’s surroundings. To steer the chair, a user concentrates on the part of the display where he or she wants to go, and electrodes in a skullcap detect the user’s brain activity and work out the destination, the researchers said.

Sensors on the wheels keep track of the chair’s position as it moves. The laser scanner detects obstacles to avoid collisions, so the chair can be used in unfamiliar surroundings, the researchers said in a paper.

Volunteers took just 45 minutes to learn how to use a prototype chair safely and accurately, said associate professor Javier Minguez, an expert in mobile robotic navigation and brain-computer interfaces who headed the chair-development team.


The prototype can handle only two thought commands a minute and can be used for only about two hours since the wet gel used to fix the electrodes to a user’s head dries and loses its effectiveness.

An improved version that could go into commercial production is being developed, Minguez said.

The wheelchair is not the first to be controlled by brain waves, but is the first to incorporate mind-control in a system of real-time navigation, route planning and collision avoidance, computer science lecturer Palaniappan Ramaswamy of Britain’s University of Essex, told New Scientist magazine.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 4th May 2009

Nanoparticles boost cancer treatment


SEATTLE (UPI) — U.S. researchers say combining nanoparticles with a scorpion venom compound can cut the spread of cancerous brain tumor cells by 98 percent.

The University of Washington said the nanoparticles more than double the effectiveness of chlorotoxin, a small peptide isolated from scorpion venom.
“People talk about the treatment being more effective with nanoparticles but they don’t know how much, maybe 5 percent or 10 percent,” Miqin Zhang, professor of materials science and engineering, said Friday in a release. “This was quite a surprise to us.”

The findings are published in the journal Small.

Researchers said adding nanoparticles can improve a therapy by increasing the length of time the combination lasts in the body. Nanoparticles also boost effectiveness of treatment compounds because therapeutic molecules tend to clump around each nanoparticle, the report said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 22nd April 2009