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'Touching' The Brain

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the good-touch dept.


Roland Piquepaille writes "Medical professionals have always dreamt of mapping the activities of the human brain in real time -- 'touching' instead of looking. Of course, modern brain scanners, such as MRI, already offer sophisticated and passive views into the human brain. But now, IST Results reports that a young Finnish company, Nexstim, has developed a non-invasive brain scanning and stimulation system called navigated brain stimulation (NBS). This system "guides the precise delivery of targeted transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) pulses to discrete brain areas." It is today the only device available for accurate prediction of the TMS stimulus location and dose within the human brain and is already in use in 20 hospitals and brain research centers worldwide. Read more for additional references and pictures about this noninvasive method for mapping and stimulating the brain."

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Obligatory (3, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649663)

"What do you think you're doing, Pinky?"

Frightening stuff... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15649667)

In science-fiction novels where copying the brain into hardware is possible, like Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars [amazon.com] future history, isn't the deep-brain scan usually fatal?

Re:Frightening stuff... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649937)

... isn't the deep-brain scan usually fatal?

Only if the scan is taking place when the subject is thinking and farting at the same time. When "I just got an idea!" and "Oh, that was so good!" collide in deep-brain, it's not a pretty picture.

Oh yes! Yes! YESSSSS!! (3, Funny)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649682)

Coud this device perhaps be used in *ahem* other parts of the body with high neuron concentration?

Re:Oh yes! Yes! YESSSSS!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15651752)

Why bother? Just find the appropriate areas within the brain itself and skip the rest. Far more effective.

Non-Invasive (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649687)

I like this better than the invasive alternatives ... like sticking a fork in your ear, fish hook up the nose, or removing the top of your head (like Hannibal).

Verily (1)

dfedfe (980539) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650546)

It definitely is better than invasive alternatives, which is why both of these technologies have been being used for, oh, decades? This appears to just be a company that combined two common brain-related-things (EEG and TMS) and wants money for doing so (hence all the patents and this advertisement/news story).

Let's see if I can come up with a good patent... I keep food in my freezer, but it is frozen so I can't eat it. I heat frozen food in a microwave. Therefore I shall patent a machine that has a microwave on top and a freezer on the bottom.

"Food storage and preparation in the same machine was previously deemed impossible. However, a young American grad student who is pioneering the supply of food manipulation systems is inspiring a paradigm shift."

Let's get it out of the way... (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649700)

"Touching is Good." That said, anything that keeps me from getting my brains scrambled has to be.

games (1)

doti (966971) | more than 7 years ago | (#15649895)

can't wait to see it applied as an interface to computer games.

or p0rn.

Re:games (1)

matt328 (916281) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650451)

Or to trick your brain into thinking you are living out your life when you are in fact lying hairless and enslaved in vat of pink slime as your body heat powers machines that sustain a race of sentient computer programs.

Damn, that would make one awesome movie. Two would be too many. Three is right out.

21st Century Addiction (1)

SPickett (911670) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650036)

Using this machine on the pleasure areas of the brain could become far more addictive than any drug around. It also wouldn't have the same medical side effects as other drugs. It's major side effect would be making people 100% non-functional. I assume torture is defined in the Geneva Conventions. But I wonder if the definition would cover giving this to prisoners and threatening to take it away if the don't talk.

Re:21st Century Addiction (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650110)

I assume you're thinking of a scenario like in Larry Niven's The Ringworld Engineers [amazon.com] where "wireheads" spend all day stimulating their brains' pleasure centres. The textbook for the undergraduate psychology course I took a while back claimed that the latest research suggests that there really isn't a "pleasure center" as such and people really can't stimulate their brains that way.

Medial forebrain bundle (1)

dfedfe (980539) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650457)

I do believe that the medial forebrain bundle [wikipedia.org] is what people mean when they talk about a "pleasure center." If you stick a stimulating electrode into a rat's MFB and let it lever press to get stimulation, it will do so to its heart's desire, until it dies of dehydration from refusing to eat or drink or do anything except hit that lever. This [mcgill.ca] may be a more informative site than wikipedia (wikipedia is very bad at neuroscience--I really ought to work on that).

Olds and Milner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15650490)

So they're now claiming that Olds' and Milner's findings in the 1950's only apply to rat brains?

Cause if your undergraduate psych book is using Kent Berridge's studies in humans (where the electrode implantation was, for obvious ethical reasons, not done methodically the way Olds and Milner's implantations in the rats were), it is really misleading you. Recall that Berridge cites the subjects' self-reports of continued desire for sexual activities as his primary justification for concluding that there is no pleasure center to stimulate whereas the rats in Olds and Milner's studies self-chose not to participate in eating, drinking or sex. Which means that Berridge's own rationale fails to support his conclusion in the case of Olds and Milner's studies with rats.

Psychology's long experience with previously observed differences between humans and rats when trying to use electrode implantation to map the brain leads to the conclusion that the more likely explanation is that the ethical constraints which prevent us from applying methodical, trial-based search for the human-equivalent location is why we have so far failed to duplicate Olds and Milner's results with humans.

Re:21st Century Addiction (1)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650518)

It was wrong; there is. IANAN (I am not a neuroscientist) but I recall reading an article a while back about a man who after a minor head accident, would have a severe reaction to any form of mild electrical stimuli; He would immediately become sexually aroused upon a small static shock, and anything more than a few volts of a zap would get him to spontaneously ejaculate. They believed that a 'short-circuit' was occurring in his brain making a wrong connection every time some electrical input was felt in his body. There is a pleasure centre in the brain, but from what I recall, it's not in any one place, but spread out in little areas all over the shop. And for what it's worth, I'd assume although IANAMLE (I'm not a military lawyer either), addicting PoW's to this treatment then threatening to remove it would indeed constitute torture, and as such be forbidden by the Laws of Armed Conflict, and the Geneva Convention. Not that the USA would care, given recent history, but hey.

Re:21st Century Addiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15655694)

Maybe. There is a limit to how much you can stimulate the brain (or really, any part of the body) without side effects. But you don't need one of these machines for that. For example, (genuine) prayer stimulates the forehead. You don't have to pray to or for anything to get the benefit. Just relax and embrace a feeling of respect.

Company's site (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650042)

There's a funny picture [nexstim.com] on the company's site. It looks like some sort of strange Hannibal Lecter simulator, with the svelte tech trying to find the tastiest part to start nibbling on.

Creepy (1)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650120)

Is anyone else reminded of the scene in the "Animatrix" when the machines have all the humans up on racks and are experimenting on the brain and the one guy starts laughing, and then crying? I wonder if this is foreshadowing something ominous...

Re:Creepy (1)

1iar_parad0x (676662) | more than 7 years ago | (#15650578)

If it's any consolation, the matrix violates the laws of thermodynamics. Plus, the human body is a grossly inefficent battery. Mr. Sun is what helps the little 'open system' that is Earth go. In other words, the robots would probably kill us and use us a fertilizer instead of an energy source. So don't worry!

They're crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15650194)

I think these researchers are a bit touched in the head, if you know what I mean.

Focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15650229)

Sounds like the Emergents are gearing up to produce a workforce of Focused slaves, to me.
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