Feeds

Brainscan breakthrough: Working robot limbs come closer

Brains in jars controlling cyber colossi, too, of course

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Canadian brain boffins are chuffed to announce a new breakthrough in the tricky business of machine mind-reading: they have developed a method of working out from brain scans what physical action a person is about to carry out – before he or she can actually do it.

"This is a considerable step forward in our understanding of how the human brain plans actions," says Jason Gallivan, PhD student at Western Ontario uni's Centre for Brain and Mind, who was heavily involved in the new research.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Gallivan and his fellow boffins scanned the bonces of test subjects as they performed a range of hand movements. The team found that by using the signals from many brain regions, they could predict which action a subject would perform seconds before he or she did so.

"Being able to predict a human's desired movements using brain signals takes us one step closer to using those signals to control prosthetic limbs," notes Gallivan.

In this context it may be worth noting that US military boffins are trying at the moment to produce a mind-to-limb interface with Billy-the-Kid style latency of under 10 milliseconds: if connected to a sufficiently speedy arm this would let cyber-limbed troops beat normal un-augmented fleshies to the trigger in most cases (as normal human reaction time is around 200-250 milliseconds).

Gallivan and his colleagues' new fMRI technique might allow a robotically-enhanced gunman – or of course a disembodied brain in a bubbling jar controlling a powerful robotic colossus of some sort – to act before it had even realised it was going to, by the look of things.

The new Canadian research is published here in the Journal of Neuroscience. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.