IIT-Madras builds AI tech to convert brain signals into language- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to convert brain signals of speech impaired humans into language, the Institute has said. The researchers can potentially interpret nature’s signals such as the plant photosynthesis process or their response to external forces.
Electrical signals, brain signals, or any signal in general, are waveforms which are decoded to meaningful information using physical law or mathematical transforms such as Fourier Transform or Laplace Transform. These physical laws and mathematical transforms are science-based languages discovered by renowned scientists such as Isaac Newton and Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier.
“The output result is the ionic current, which represents the flow of ions which are charged particles. These electrically driven ionic current signals are worked on to be interpreted as human language meaning speech. This would tell us what the ions are trying to communicate with us,” said study researcher Vishal Nandigana, Assistant Professor, Fluid Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras.
“When we succeed with this effort, we will get electrophysiological data from the neurologists to get brain signals of speech impaired humans to know what they are trying to communicate,” Nandigana added.
The researchers are working on how these real data signal can be decoded into human languages such as English, and if the real data signal can be interpreted as a simple human language that all human beings can understand.
Brain signals are typically electrical signals. These are wave-like patterns with spikes, humps and crusts which can be converted into simple human language, meaning speech, using Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning algorithms.
This enabled the researchers to read the direct electrical signals of the brain.
They tested this concept by getting experimental electrical signals through experiments in the laboratory to get signals from nanofluidic transport inside nanopores.
The nanopores were filled with saline solution and mediated using an electric field, the Institute said in a statement.

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Amy Orben: ‘To talk about smartphones affecting the brain is a slippery slope’ | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Amy Orben is a research fellow at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. She works in the field of experimental psychology and her speciality is analysing large-scale datasets to determine how social media and the use of digital technology affect the wellbeing of teenagers. Her latest paper, co-written with Prof Andrew Przybylski, looks at teenage sleep and technology engagement.
In recent years there has been a great deal of speculation about the possible harmful effects of digital technology, particularly smartphones, on mental health, the ability to concentrate, and sleep patterns. Is there any sound evidence to support these concerns? In relation to how much societal debate and coverage these questions get, there is very little evidence for these concerns, and even less high-quality, robust and transparent evidence. I think that lack of high-quality evidence makes the question really difficult to answer.
You have written of the “low quality of measurement available in current data sources”, because it relies on adolescent self-reporting, so does that mean the concerns might be valid, just that it’s impossible at the moment to access the evidence? We always have concerns about new technology as a society and that’s completely natural, and therefore we need to respect that people are concerned. But we’re at a stage where, although there’s very little evidence, these concerns are driving policy change and political debate. There’s still so little high-quality data about what we as a society and our children are actually doing with technology, across the wide range of technologies we use on a daily basis.
You’ve noted that such data won’t be forthcoming until Google, Facebook and the large gaming companies share the information they have on their servers. What’s your hunch about what would be found if they did do that? If that data was shared, it would be a massive step forward in what we know about technology. Getting that sort of data in an open, ethical way will allow us to do a lot more than any sort of research funding or money thrown at this problem would allow us to do. I think what we will find is that technology is incredibly diverse. We use it in many different ways, with many different motivations, and we use it to access a huge amount of different content. We’ll find that certain uses affect certain people in a negative way. Just like we’ll find that certain uses affect certain people in a positive way.
Do you believe these companies should be legally compelled to share this data? I think it is time to promote data sharing by more than just telling companies they should do it. The direct collaboration with researchers hasn’t worked, because we as researchers are puny in comparison with these tech giants. I don’t think the companies should just hand over all their data but yes, a more centralised and mandated system for data sharing is necessary.
In the absence of that data, is it significant that many leading Silicon Valley figures make a point of restricting their own children’s social media and smartphone use? I think the coverage about certain Silicon Valley bosses and their children can be quite misleading because they are a very privileged and elite subsection of society. I don’t think it reflects normal society and we should take a more diverse view to parenting. It also doesn’t reflect the whole of Silicon Valley either. There is a great proportion that don’t restrict tech use.
People talk about screentime affecting mental health. But presumably there’s a difference between, say, doing research on a smartphone for homework and studying your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s Instagram feed? A hundred per cent. I think we cannot say this enough. We regularly over-generalise social media and technology’s effects, and that’s because those technologies are new. We often see them as one thing, but for the users themselves they represent probably as many different uses as there are users. Different technology uses have different effects. And on the Instagram platform, for example, different content will have different effects. What’s more the same content could have very different effects on different people or on the same person in different time frames.

When politicians single out social media, they’re not blaming parents or policies. It gives them an easy scapegoat

Obviously empirical evidence and anecdotal observation are different things. But does it matter that children – and adults – appear much less able to complete tasks like reading a book without constant reference to smartphones? It is common now for people to complain about how much of a role smartphones play in their lives. Because scientific evidence does take longer to accrue, especially when the data is unavailable, I can see that in the next couple of years we will get a better understanding of how it is affecting us, for example in relation to our attention spans. But at the moment you’re living in a dichotomous world as an academic. In everyday life there’s a huge amount of concern about technology and in the scientific sphere we’re really just at the very beginning of understanding this, which makes working in this area quite difficult at times.
You’ve criticised the Royal College of Psychiatrists international congress in London last year for fostering the idea that social media was “depleting our neurotransmitter deposits”, without any evidence to support the claim. Aren’t psychiatrists scientists – ie medically trained doctors? Why would they promote ideas without evidence? I think there’s a huge amount of fear in this area. You just have to Google smartphone addiction and you’d be convinced that it is a thing, even though it is not a psychiatrically recognised disorder. To talk about smartphones affecting the brain is a really slippery slope because there haven’t been a lot of brain-specific studies done. There is a widespread belief that smartphones cause a dopamine kick and dopamine kicks lead to addiction. Well, anything I do that is pleasurable will give me a dopamine kick, because it’s a signal for pleasure. I could be talking to my friends or eating a pizza. So even if smartphones do that, it’s circular reasoning.
Psychologist Jean Twenge has argued that smartphone use is related to a rise in teenage suicide and depression in America. She cites research that shows limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Is there any substance to this? Jean Twenge and I have had a lot of disagreement on this. If you review the studies that have asked people to refrain from social media use, the results are really mixed. The first thing is that these studies struggle to get the participants to actually implement this ban, so they’re not perfect studies. But what we find is that some show a decrease in cortisol levels, so not being on social media decreases your stress biomarkers. But the same study also shows that people’s life satisfaction decreases as well. So you can pick and choose, but if you look at the field as a whole, the story is really complicated.
It’s been noted that young people today represent one of the most educated, least violent, and most socially connected generations the world has seen. Do you have any thoughts on what might be driving their increased anxiety and depression? My thoughts boil down to the simple statement that it’s complicated. What we’re seeing at the moment is society looking for the one thing that’s causing this so-called mental health crisis, and technology is a really easy thing to point at. Social media have only been around for the last decade and their use has accelerated. And when politicians single out social media, they’re not blaming parents or policies like austerity or cuts in mental health services, so it gives them an easy scapegoat. But if we truly want to understand what makes adolescents feel the way they do, it will be a complex network of factors, of which social media will be one small part.
How much do you use your smartphone? And does it ever give you cause for concern? I’ve used smartphones and social media since I was a teenager. And it’s a key part of my professional life and also my life as a whole: I need it to navigate a city, arrange train travel and contact my friends. Sometimes I overuse it. We’ve just come out of Christmas and on Christmas Day I do eat the additional mince pie that I shouldn’t, although I know that’s not good for me. Sometimes I use social media to escape from a problem, and I know it’s not good for me, but like with the mince pies, I try to self-regulate. I think the diet metaphor is really good for me to understand my own technology use.

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New algorithm helps find treatment for brain cancer: Study- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Researchers have developed an algorithm using which they found a new treatment for neuroblastoma — a potentially deadly type of cancer in children, which occurs in specialised nerve cells controlling the body’s response to dangerous or stressful situations. The new treatment, described in the journal Nature Communications is based on activating a protein called CNR2 (cannabinoid receptor 2) in the nervous system.
As part of the study, the researchers, including those from Sweden’s Uppsala University, developed a new computer algorithm which combines massive quantities of genetic and drug data from European and American hospitals and universities. The algorithm then suggested new treatments that could influence the basic mechanisms of the disease, the researchers said.
“We were astonished when the algorithm came up with completely new ideas for treatment, such as CNR2, that no one has ever discussed in this context. So we decided to investigate this further in the lab,” said study co-author Sven Nelander from Uppsala University.
The scientists tested the potential drugs on cell samples from patients and in animal models, where they proved effective. According to the study, the cancer cells’ survival rate declined, and tumour growth in zebrafish decreased, following treatment with a substance which stimulates CNR2.
“Smart algorithms will be increasingly important in cancer research in the years ahead, since they can help us scientists to find unexpected angles,” Nelander said.
The researchers have also engineered the algorithm so that it can be applied to other forms of cancer.

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MIT’s new thread-like robots could travel through blood vessels in the brain for more effective surgery – gpgmail


MIT has developed robotic thread that could make even the least invasive current brain surgery techniques even less so, and potentially make it easier and more accessible to treat brain blood vessel issues like blockages and lesions that can cause aneurysms and strokes.

The new development from MIT researchers combines robotics with current endovascular (i.e. within blood vessel) surgery techniques, reducing the risks associated with guiding incredibly thin wires through complicated brain blood vessel pathways. Today, this type of procedure, which is much less invasive than past methods of brain surgery, nonetheless requires an incredibly skilled surgeon to guide the wire manually. It’s a very difficult surgery for surgeons, and it also means that they’re exposed to radiation from the X-rays required to provide a view of the path they’re weaving through the patient’s brain.

These “robot-threads” developed by MIT expand on research done on so-called “hydrogels,” which are materials made mostly of water that work well within the human body. At the thread’s core is a material called “nitinol” that can bend, and is springy, meaning it has a natural tendency to spring back to its original shape when bent.

The material is coated in an ink-like substance, which is then bonded with a hydrogel, thus regulating it in a magnetically manipulable material that can still survive within the human body. Using a large magnet, the researchers could then steer the thread through a demonstration obstacle course they built to show off how it could work in a surgical situation.

MIT’s researchers also note that you can modify the core construction of the robot threads with other materials to serve different functions, and showed this by replacing the nitinol at its center with a fiber-optic filament, which in practice could be used to transmit laser light to blast away a blockage in a brain blood vessel.

The tech could be put to use to make it so surgeons can operate the threads from a safe distance — or even remotely. This would not only be safer for the doctors, but could also open up more access to this highly specialized kind of surgery for patients, too.


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