Saturday, June 6, 2015

the bull,the squid and the whale

Much of Delgado's work  in the mid 1960's was with an invention he called a stimoceiver, a radio which joined a stimulator of brain waves with a receiver which monitored E.E.G. waves and sent them back on separate radio channels. Some of these stimoceivers were as small as half-dollars. This allowed the subject of the experiment full freedom of movement while allowing the experimenter to control the experiment. This was a great improvement from his early equipment which included implanted electrodes whose wires ran from the brain to bulky equipment that both recorded data and delivered the desired electrical charges to the brain. This early equipment, while not allowing for a free range of movement, was also the cause of infection in many subjects.[3]
The stimoceiver could be used to stimulate emotions and control behavior. According to Delgado, "Radio Stimulation of different points in the amygdala and hippocampus in the four patients produced a variety of effects, including pleasant sensations, elation, deep, thoughtful concentration, odd feelings, super relaxation, colored visions, and other responses." Delgado stated that "brain transmitters can remain in a person's head for life. The energy to activate the brain transmitter is transmitted by way of radio frequencies."[4]
Using the stimoceiver, Delgado found that he could not only elicit emotions, but he could also elicit specific physical reactions. These specific physical reactions, such as the movement of a limb or the clenching of a fist, were achieved when Delgado stimulated the motor cortex. A human whose implants were stimulated to produce a reaction were unable to resist the reaction and so one patient said “I guess, doctor, that your electricity is stronger than my will”. Some consider one of Delgado's most promising finds is that of an area called the septum within the limbic region. This area, when stimulated by Delgado, produced feelings of strong euphoria. These euphoric feelings were sometimes strong enough to overcome physical pain and depression.[2]
Delgado created many inventions and was called a “technological wizard” by one of his Yale colleagues. Other than the stimoceiver, Delgado also created a "chemitrode" which was an implantable device that released controlled amounts of a drug into specific brain areas. Delgado also invented an early version of what is now a cardiac pacemaker.[2]
In Rhode Island, Delgado did some work at what is now a closed mental hospital. He chose patients who were "desperately ill patients whose disorders had resisted all previous treatments" and implanted electrodes in about 25 of them. Most of these patients were either schizophrenics or epileptics. To determine the best placement of electrodes within the human patients, Delgado initially looked to the work of Wilder Penfield, who studied epileptics' brains in the 1930s, as well as earlier animal experiments, and studies of brain-damaged people.[2]
The most famous example of the stimoceiver in action occurred at a Cordoba bull breeding ranch. Delgado stepped into the ring with a bull which had had a stimoceiver implanted within its brain. The bull charged Delgado, who pressed a remote control button which caused the bull to stop its charge. Always one for theatrics, he taped this stunt and it can be seen today.[5] The region of the brain Delgado stimulated when he pressed the hand-held transmitter was the caudate nucleus. This region was chosen to be stimulated because the caudate nucleus is involved in controlling voluntary movements.[2] Delgado claimed that the stimulus caused the bull to lose its aggressive instinct.
Although the bull incident was widely mentioned in the popular media, Delgado believed that his experiment with a female chimpanzee named Paddy was more significant. Paddy was fitted with a stimoceiver linked to a computer that detected the brain signal called a spindle which was emitted by her part of the brain called the amygdala. When the spindle was recognized, the stimoceiver sent a signal to the central gray area of Paddy's brain, producing an 'aversive reaction'. In this case, the aversive reaction was an unpleasant or painful feeling. The result of the aversive reaction to the stimulus was a negative feedback to the brain.[2] Within hours her brain was producing fewer spindles as a result of the negative feedback.[6] As a result, Paddy became “quieter, less attentive and less motivated during behavioral testing”. Although Paddy's reaction was not exactly ideal, Delgado hypothesized that the method used on Paddy could be used on others to stop panic attacks, seizures, and other disorders controlled by certain signals within the brain.[2] [7][8]

Squids are masters of camouflage, and can manipulate the colors emitted by their skin with a distributed central nervous system in order to blend in.
Now DARPA can manipulate the color changes too, by hacking into the squid's central nervous system functions.
A study funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has perfected the art of using electrical signals to manipulate the color of a squid's iridescent skin over the entire color spectrum.
The Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts carried out the research.
It was a tough nut to crack, and the discovery is the result of twenty years of curiosity.
The nerve network in squid skin is immensely complex, and now the ability to manipulate that system offers new opportunities for active camouflage.
DARPA has a number of programs that set out to hack biology. This is one of them, seeking to exploit the squid's advanced camouflage for military use.
The colors come from "iridiphores" on the squid's skin. Now that the scientists know which nerves stimulate which iridiphores — not to mention how to electrically shock the nerve to project the right color — they'll be able to advance the research on iridiphore manipulation. 

Military Funds Brain-Computer Interfaces to Control Feelings

Researcher Jose Carmena has worked for years training macaque monkeys to move computer cursors and robotic limbs with their minds. He does so by implanting electrodes into their brains to monitor neural activity. Now, as part of a sweeping $70 million program funded by the U.S. military, Carmena has a new goal: to use brain implants to read, and then control, the emotions of mentally ill people.
This week the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, awarded two large contracts to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, to create electrical brain implants capable of treating seven psychiatric conditions, including addiction, depression, and borderline personality disorder.
The project builds on expanding knowledge about how the brain works; the development of microlectronic systems that can fit in the body; and substantial evidence that thoughts and actions can be altered with well-placed electrical impulses to the brain.
“Imagine if I have an addiction to alcohol and I have a craving,” says Carmena, who is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and involved in the UCSF-led project. “We could detect that feeling and then stimulate inside the brain to stop it from happening.”
The U.S. faces an epidemic of mental illness among veterans, including suicide rates three or four times that of the general public. But drugs and talk therapy are of limited use, which is why the military is turning to neurological devices, says Justin Sanchez, manager of the DARPA program, known as Subnets, for Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies.
“We want to understand the brain networks [in] neuropsychiatric illness, develop technology to measure them, and then do precision signaling to the brain,” says Sanchez. “It’s something completely different and new. These devices don’t yet exist.”
Under the contracts, which are the largest awards so far supporting President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, the brain-mapping program launched by the White House last year, UCSF will receive as much as $26 million and Mass General up to $30 million. Companies including the medical device giant Medtronic and startup Cortera Neurotechnologies, a spin-out from UC Berkeley’s wireless laboratory, will supply technology for the effort. Initial research will be in animals, but DARPA hopes to reach human tests within two or three years.
The research builds on a small but quickly growing market for devices that work by stimulating nerves, both inside the brain and outside it. More than 110,000 Parkinson’s patients have received deep-brain stimulators built by Medtronic that control body tremors by sending electric pulses into the brain. More recently, doctors have used such stimulators to treat severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder (see “Brain Implants Can Reset Misfiring Circuits”). Last November, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved NeuroPace, the first implant that both records from the brain and stimulates it (see “Zapping Seizures Away”). It is used to watch for epileptic seizures and then stop them with electrical pulses. Altogether, U.S. doctors bill for about $2.6 billion worth of neural stimulation devices a year, according to industry estimates.
Researchers say they are making rapid improvements in electronics, including small, implantable computers. Under its program, Mass General will work with Draper Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to develop new types of stimulators. The UCSF team is being supported by microelectronics and wireless researchers at UC Berkeley, who have created several prototypes of miniaturized brain implants. Michel Maharbiz, a professor in Berkeley’s electrical engineering department, says the Obama brain initiative, and now the DARPA money, has created a “feeding frenzy” around new technology. “It’s a great time to do tech for the brain,” he says.
The new line of research has been dubbed “affective brain-computer interfaces” by some, meaning electronic devices that alter feelings, perhaps under direct control of a patient’s thoughts and wishes. “Basically, we’re trying to build the next generation of psychiatric brain stimulators,” says Alik Widge, a researcher on the Mass General team.
Darin Dougherty, a psychiatrist who directs Mass General’s division of neurotherapeutics, says one aim could be to extinguish fear in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Fear is generated in the amygdala—a part of the brain involved in emotional memories. But it can be repressed by signals in another region, the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex. “The idea would be to decode a signal in the amygdala showing overactivity, then stimulate elsewhere to [suppress] that fear,” says Dougherty.
Such research isn’t without ominous overtones. In the 1970s, Yale University neuroscientist Jose Delgado showed he could cause people to feel emotions, like relaxation or anxiety, using implants he called “stimoceivers.” But Delgado, also funded by the military, left the U.S. after Congressional hearings in which he was accused of developing “totalitarian” mind-control devices. According to scientists funded by DARPA, the agency has been anxious about how the Subnets program could be perceived, and it has appointed an ethics panel to oversee the research.
Psychiatric implants would in fact control how mentally ill people act, although in many cases indirectly, by changing how they feel. For instance, a stimulator that stops a craving for cocaine would alter an addict’s behavior. “It’s to change what people feel and to change what they do. Those are intimately tied,” says Dougherty.
Dougherty says a brain implant would only be considered for patients truly debilitated by mental illness, and who can’t be helped with drugs and psychotherapy. “This is never going to be a first-line option: ‘Oh, you have PTSD, let’s do surgery,’ ” says Dougherty. “It’s going to be for people who don’t respond to the other treatments.” 

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