Connect With Your Brain

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“People will not use devices to communicate with machines in the future. You will use your mind and it will be direct.” — Thomas Reardon, CTRL-Labs (acquired by Facebook). 

In 2017, quadriplegic racer Rodrigo Hübner Mendes became the first person to drive an F1 car by using only his brainwaves, thanks to an Emotiv headset.

In 2019, a kickstarter campaign featured UDrone, a $297 drone you can fly with your brain. It works! — although doesn’t seem to have been a commercial success.

With technology from Synchron Medical, two paralyzed patients with ALS were able to text, email, shop and bank online through direct thought.

Wearing NeuroElectrics’ StarStim for 20 minutes per day reduced seizures in 75% of otherwise untreatable epilepsy patients by 40% over baseline, allowing these patients to avoid brain surgery. NeoroElectrics can listen to your brain and then turn on or turn off different sections.

“The signals you generate neurologically are the most unique identifier of you. With 30 seconds of recordings, we can identify that person for the rest of their life.” — Thomas Reardon.

Examining, Measuring and Optimizing Your Brain

Standard medical imaging technologies such as functional neuroimaging, and electroencephalography (EEG) recordings are important in studying the brain. There are over 15 companies selling EEG devices to analyze and potentially optimize your brain! Most are intended for purchase by research organizations. 

However, BCI expert Thomas Oxley compares EEG to looking for the surface ripples made by a fish swimming underwater while a storm roils the lake. Emerging techniques of “seeing” into the brain include:

  • Magnetoencephalography, or M.E.G., which measures magnetic waves emanating outside the skull from neurons firing beneath it.
  • Near-infrared and infrared light to infer brain activity from changes in blood flow.
  • Ultrasonics

We will write more on the opportunity to use technology to analyze your brain in an upcoming Setting Your Health Baseline article. Until then, here are some upcoming ways you can connect with your brain.

Top Brain-Computer Interfaces / Wetware Companies

In 2017, Gartner researchers placed Brain-Computer Interfaces on their Emerging Technology Hype Cycle Chart with an expectation that the technology was more than ten years from reality. Since then, much has been accomplished more rapidly than expected. Your brain can be augmented today to do some amazing things. For example, brain-speech recognition can predict 97% of what you are saying by listening to your brain signals. Here are more organizations conducting exciting research into Brain-Computer Interfaces:

  • CTRL-Labs (acquired by Facebook Reality Labs)
    • Provide a wristband to capture all signals from the brain to your hand so they can digitize your hand movements.
    • Eliminate the need for mice, swipe screens and joysticks and possibly even keyboards. There is no longer a need to touch something to interact with it.
  • DARPA’s Next-generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology Program, or N³
    • $104MM in funding to develop mind-reading capabilities.
    • Goals include controlling fleet of drones at the speed of human thought.
  • Emotiv — Research and teaching-focused EEG headsets called Brainwear®.
    • Monitor, analyze, visualize and understand brain data and stress levels.
    • Play Emotive Labs Brain Games to test memory, focus and impulse control.
  • Innervace — UPenn spinout
    • Attempting to engineer living electrodes which merge and connect with brain tissues.
    • Goal of restoring impaired brain functions.
    • No news since 2019
  • Kernel — measure brain health and wellness via their neural quantification helmet. Can alert you to consider a different behavior or activity when your:
    • brain has cravings.
    • inhibitory control center is less active.
    • brain is in “zombie-mode” from mindless entertainment.
  • Koniku — Koniku comes from a Nigerian word that means “immortal.”
    • Actual brain cells on a chip
    • Potential uses
      • Create wetware artificial intelligence. (Wetware are elements equivalent to hardware and software found in a person.)
      • Detect airborne chemicals.
      • New drug testing.
  • MIT’s Center for Neurobiological Engineering
    • Focused on reverse-engineering the human brain.
    • Research led by Edward Boydon has found ways to use electrical frequencies to fire different neurons at different depths in the brain.
  • Muse
    • EEG headband which can sense and detect your attention levels.
    • Could be used by employers to make sure employees are focused!
    • Can measure stress levels and adjust your environment to help calm your thoughts.
  • Neuralink — Elon Musk’s company
    • Record the electrical signals coming from the 86 billion neurons in your brain.
    • Implants in the brain provide the highest level of data quality, enabling advanced capabilities.
    • Aim to enhance the human brain, eventually achieving telepathic communication. 
  • NeuroSky — Consumer-grade EEG headsets for gaming. Over 1 million sold.
    • Play games using only your mind.
    • Watch specially-designed movies and influence the outcome by focusing or relaxing your brain.
    • Gather EEG and ECG biosensor data for:
      • Stress, Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, Heart Age, Blood Pressure, Arrhythmia Detection
      • Breathing Index, Fatigue, Motion Sickness, Emotion Intensity
      • Attention, Meditation, Sleep Tracking, Mental Effort
  • Paradromics
    • Highest data rate BCI.
    • Implants in the the brain to enable those with physical disabilities.
  • OpenWater —  Mary Lou Jepsen
    • Combine the best of MRI, infrared and ultrasonics for full brain scanning.
    • Work with hospitals on a blood flow detection system for stroke.

Digitally Preserving Your Brain

So with BCI’s making rapid progress, will it be possible digitally to preserve your brain’s memories and artificially recreate your thinking? In one famous experiment, Martine Rothhblatt attempted to recreate his partner as Bina48, a robotic head and artificially-intelligent brain. See what happens when Bina48 meets Siri. Hopefully, other attempts go better for humanity’s sake!

Here are more companies, organizations and researchers who have been working on brain preservation solutions, some scarier than others.

  • 2045 Initiative for brain uploading to make humans immortal. No news since 2016.
  • Nectome
    • Won prizes for animal brain preservation using aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation.
    • Focused on human memory preservation, however require customers to die first.
    • Lost the support of the scientific community because appeared to encourage suicide with slogans such as, “mind-uploading service that is 100 percent fatal.”
    • Initial research shows that memories are preserved using Glutaraldehyde to archive the nanostructure of the brain in perfect detail.
    • Have raised $2MM in grants and additional Silicon Valley seed investments.
    • Have preserved animal brains and sought to begin preserving first human brains in 2023.
    • The technology to retrieve memories from this state has not been invented and will be very challenging.
    • Seems to be out of business as of 2024.
  • Cyran AI — Founder Manan Suri is using nanoscale physics to mimic the brain.
    • Transistors store information as 1s and 0s, however biological synapses which store information in the brain can take multiple states.
    • Emerging non-volatile memory (eNVM) is a potential solution.
  • Scientists Made Snails Remember Something Which Never Happened to Them.
  • Will Machines Ever Become Conscious?

In summary, digital preservation and uploading of your brain appears to be a long way off unless the BCI companies make a major breakthrough.

Thanks for reading this article. As your reward for continuing to focus on your health, please check out Richard Morgan’s brilliant and  imaginative book and Netflix series, Altered Carbon, set in a futuristic world where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies. After reading or watching it, your brain will never think about things quite the same way…

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