Brain Computer Interface experiment on real humans

This recent study of patients with epilepsy who prior to going into surgery had the opportunity for interesting brain research to be performed.

The opportunity allowed for electrodes to be wired directly onto the brain similiar to previous expirements on primates.  The subjects were asked to perform an action like moving their arm, or sticking out their tongue, and also to imagine the same movement.  They were then given a computer simulation with a cursor on the screen and asked to do a similiar movement by thinking it.

With about 10 minutes of training, patients were able to control the mouse cursor. The brain got progressively better with more practice.

Pair Programming and Programmer Psychology

This is a great article in the IEEE Software journal looking at why pair programming does and doesn’t work and why it should or shouldn’t work.

In fact the article doesn’t have all that much to do with pair programming but looks at how developers work with each other. The article sites 4 mechanisms where pairing can have influence.

For example, the great scenario whereby describing a problem to an ‘expert’ colleague helps you find the answer, even if the colleague has little idea about the problem or the domain to begin with.  This reminds me of the Code Consultant plugin for IntelliJ Idea. 

Or when someone misses an error right in front of them (inattentional blindness), a pair can pick up the error.  The old psych lab of Did you notice the woman dressed as a 400 pound gorilla in the picture the second time around?

The article talks about how pairs can help keep each other using proper development patterns over change, compile, run, fail, change something else, compile, hope for change loop that beginners use when they first start developing. 

Finally, the article talks about how having a pair helps get a view of your own self since developers working solely don’t usually have their techniques reviewed critically and often, working with a pair also enforces them to do some introspection.  A yard-stick?  People who don’t pair are less likely to do this, and the article sites the scenario where job applicants who claim to know something, get stuck when it comes to explaining these things in practise.

Overall, I think it was a good article, not because it was talking about pairing, but more because it highlighted the tribulations of everyday developers, and how pairing could help or detract as an afterthought.

Monkey’s Brain Can “Plug and Play” to Control Computer With Thought

This is pretty cool.  The title says it all… well maybe it should be plug then play a few days later since there is still a learning curve. However the idea that you can attach a prosthetic to some neurons and eventually you’ll have a cortical map form so your brain can repeat the same actions – fire those same neurons in the same pattern to control the device over and over again. 

But there is a further element of coolness (excluding the fact that the monkeys are exploitmented on – dont know a solution for that one) in that once researches figured out a mapping between neurons, brain signal patterns and intended control, the monkeys could adapt to different mappings that had the weightings in the mapping a little ‘off’.  So basically the cortical map the brain formed had adapted too.

The downside is that the implementation currently is still in the lab stages.  And its attaching directly to your brain so only people looking for permanent solutions (ie those with disabilities) need apply.  But it is a step in the right direction to be able to interact more efficiently with machines and eventually and more importantly, interact with each other.

A Stroke of Insight

This video is a talk given by a brain scientist who had a stroke and analysed what was going on as she was having the stroke. That is fascinating enough but then she talks about what happened to her as her left side of her brain gave out and the experience she had and it sounds scaringly similar to what people experience when they have near death experiences.

Tickle’s Original Inkblot Test

Tickle’s Original Inkblot Test

Things you find whilst cleaning out your bookmarks. Still this inkblot test was still a little bit of fun.

Your Unconscious Mind Is Most Driven by Love.


Your instinct to love and be loved is rooted very deeply in your subconscious and affects most of the decisions you make in life – whether you are aware of it or not. You inspire people to experience their true feelings of love and act kindly towards others. You also value your personal relationships more than most people.

Your unique capacity to love may be greater than those around you, which means you may have more to give in relationships than your friends or romantic partners do. Your psyche is very rich; the more you learn about it, the more you will understand who you really are…

Model train controlled via brain-machine interface

Ok, heres a great new way to switch your model train on and off using your brain.

Model train controlled via brain-machine interface ::: Pink Tentacle

Hitachi have developed a helmet that reads the blood concentration in the brain and detects changes in blood flow. This is useful to detect mental activity and then interpret these signals to control some external device. Users need to remember some sort of mental arithmetic or remember something to trigger the train to switch on and off.

The Hitachi site has a little bit more info as well.

Freemind taking off (sort of)

Another trip on sourceforge revealed that Freemind has a couple of wiki’s that support its format along with some tools to extend its functionality.

My favourites from the above search are:

LiveMind: AJAX MindMap editor – “this is an on-line, html (AJAX) based editor & browser for FreeMind ( mindmaps.” – “A web-spider, based on the availability of URL APIs to most web based databases, mapping web pages to two dimensional FreeMind mind-maps. “

Topographica and the NIMH Human Brain Project

Topographica and the NIMH Human Brain Project

Something interesting on the sourceforge homepage today. I found an application known as Topographica which is used to help researchers identify the functions of the brain related to sensory and motor functions.

From the webpage:

Topographica instead focuses on the large-scale structure and function that is visible only when many thousands of such neurons are connected into topographic maps containing millions of connections.

While I touched on the ideas expressed only very briefly when I studied Computational Neuroscience, I’m sure the future of this app looks promising and is something I’ll come back to when I get more time.

Speed Reading Links

Speed Reading Links

While searching Music Speed Reading to help my brother I came across a few pages:

Speed reading software, articles and tips (Ababasoft) – has lots of background info on speed reading plus flash games to help you develop your skills. There are lots of them, there is even a speed reading metronome. The site also has a lot of flash games to learn music theory. Great site.

RocketReader – An aussie product which is an end to end speed reading and comprehension tool. Looks good – a little pricey ($99 AUD).

There were other relevant tools (mainly screenreaders) at this site where I came across the above two links.