This is a guest post by Cory Derringer. He is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa and a member of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI).
I ran across this article at reddit.com/r/psychology. I thought it would be cool to share something really awesome involving computer science and neuroscience.
Neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have used electrode implants in epilepsy patients to give those individuals conscious control over the firing of some single neurons. The process is too complicated to explain in one or two hundred words (and honestly, I don’t understand it), but the researchers were able to link the electrodes to software, giving patients the ability to move a cursor or even play a simple computer game using only their brains.
The team arranged for a situation in which two concepts competed for dominance in the mind of the patient. “We had patients sit in front of a blank screen and asked them to think of one of the target images,” [Caltech post-doc fellow Moran Cerf] explains. As they thought of the image, and the related neuron fired, “we made the image appear on the screen,” he says. That image is the “target.” Then one of the other three images is introduced, to serve as the “distractor.”
“The patient starts with a 50/50 image, a hybrid, representing the ‘marriage’ of the two images,” Cerf says, and then has to make the target image fade in—just using his or her mind—and the distractor fade out…“The subjects quickly got the hang of the task, and they were successful in around 70 percent of trials.”
[The original press release can be found here. Ed.]