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AIST brings mind-reading technology closer to reality

by

Staff Writer

Communicating via brain waves, by merely thinking, may seem like a notion out of the world of science fiction, but it would be a dream come true for people who are physically unable to express themselves.

Helping to bring mental telepathy one step closer to reality is the Neurocommunicator, a system developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The device inputs an individual’s finely nuanced brain waves into a computer graphics application geared toward interpreting thoughts.

Ryohei Hasegawa, head of AIST’s Neurotechnology Group of Human Technology Research, said the Neurocommunicator facilitates brain wave communication for people who have been incapacitated by, for example, a stroke, spinal cord injury or neurological disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“When people lose speaking and writing motility, their quality of life drastically declines,” Hasegawa, whose team unveiled the Neurocommunicator system in 2010, said in an interview last month.

ALS patients may have lost their ability to move or speak but their brain functions, their ability to think and understand, may remain intact and able to send signals that the Neurocommunicator can receive and interpret.

People produce small brain-wave signals through various activities, including thinking, blinking and recognizing. The Neruocommunicator takes advantage of what is called ERP, or “event related potential” — the mental responses to stimuli that can be observed in brain waves.

“There are various changes in electrical potential observed from the brain activities around the scalp. It’s quite well-known that alpha waves are used to see how people relax . . . (but the Neurocommunicator) looks at changes over short periods of time,” Hasegawa said.

The device’s components include headgear equipped with amplifiers and a compact brain-wave gauge capable of monitoring the most minute movements.

The gauge wirelessly sends eight channels of real-time information about brain activity around the scalp that is displayed on a computer screen.

Another screen, used by the patient, shows eight panels displaying physical activity choices — elimination of bodily waste, phlegm-clearing, drinking, being physically turned over, having a TV, air conditioner or light turned on, or having teeth brushed.

Each panel randomly flashes in a span of seconds. To communicate, the patient is told to stare at a certain panel and focus on recognizing when it flashes, which can then be read by the machine.

“When the designated panel flashes, the patients produce strong brain waves (that are not reflected in the other panels). We use this mechanism to guess which panel the patients have chosen,” Hasegawa said.

This strong wave is the ERP, which has a waveform unique to each individual.

Once a person’s ERP waveform has been identified, the communication process becomes quite simple. The patient just looks at the panels and makes a selection by recognizing when it flashes.

Staring at the TV panel and recognizing when it flashes would signal that one wants the television turned on.

The Neurocommunicator compares the ERP patterns in the panels with the individual’s ERP, taken in advance, to determine the patient’s selection in a matter of seconds.

Research has proven the device has an accuracy rate of over 90 percent.

The Neurocommunicator currently uses three different panel sets, which in combination can allow for as many as 512 different types of messages. It also has virtual avatars that can be used to verbalize them.

Although the Neurocommunicator has the potential to be a beneficial communication tool, Hasegawa said it is still unclear when his team can put it into practical use.

“Because AIST is semi-public, we cannot just put the technology on the market. We need to find private firms that can market this technology through licensing,” he said.

The system also needs further improvement, including an interface geared toward nonscientists.

“Right now, an experienced person is monitoring the brain waves. But there are situations where an elderly person is taking care of another elderly person, so we need to make it easy to use even for seniors who have never touched a computer before,” Hasegawa noted.

Another concern is that the flow of the brain waves can easily be affected by outside factors, including interference generated by other electronic devices nearby, he said. EPR impulses are extremely weak and easily overwhelmed by electromagnetic interference.

Although challenges remain in spreading brain wave communications, Hasegawa boasted of its potential.

For example, the system’s ability to detect changes in brain waves might allow doctors to spot declines in cognitive function, paving the way for early detection of dementia, he said.

This section, appearing on the second Monday of each month, features new technologies that are still under research and development but expected to hit the market in coming years.

  • DonKrieger

    How to speed up and simplify the device:
    The device relies on visual event related potentials from the brain.
    These routinely require at least 20-50 repetitions at a few per second which limits the response time of the device to 10 seconds or more for a single decision.
    The visual event related potential from the retina can typically be obtained in a single trial from a contact lens electrode. Contact lenses could be produced with an integrated recording electrode, micro pre-amplifier, and transmitter. This would eliminate the head mounted device with all of the complexity of establishing good electrical connection between the multiple electrodes in the cap and the scalp. Instead a belt worn, chair-mounted, or computer-mounted device would pick up the broadcast from the contact lenses and feed it into the computer.

    I was unable to quickly find Dr. Hasegawa’s email contact information and so hope that this note will be forwarded to him. Thank you.

    Don Krieger, Ph.D.
    Department of Neurological Surgery
    University of Pittsburgh, USA

  • Tomoko Endo

    Some said that this kind of devices exist already. And some cults already use them incorrectly. That is called ‘electronic harassment’

  • Сурен Акопов

    I made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts, AChM 3.human mind reading machine; 4.brain decoder inner voice; 5.brain decoding machine interface ( in my definition ); 6.device for thoughts identification; 7. apparatus for subvocal recognition speech ( voice ), SVR. I live in Russia and have a bad position and I can not to publish my discovery and I invite partnership and need moral support. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com About the problem look : 1 NewScientist, 29.10.2014, B.Pasley, J.Gallant both from the university California Berkeley; Moran Cerf, California institute of Technology; M.Chun Yale University New York; T. Mitchell and M.Just, Carnegie Mellon university; John – Dylan Haynes, Germany. B. Pasley and J.Gallant wrong!!! 2.For more information and understanding about me ( C.A.) look in Google search :, , first practical device for reading human thoughts, AChM, Сурен Акопов, , . 3.Major works were completed by me more 29 March 2013.

  • Сурен Акопов

    Made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts, AChM; 3.human mind reading machine; 4.brain decoder inner voice; 5.brain decoding machine interface ( in my definition ); 6.device for thoughts identification; 7. apparatus for subvocal recognition, SVR. Opening unpublished. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com

  • Сурен Акопов

    ,,AIST brings mind-reading technology closer to reality?,, .Royhei Hasegawa and Kazuaki Nagata wrong! B. Pasley , J.Gallant, M.Cerf, M.Chun, T. Mitchell and M.Just, John – Dylan Haynes all wrong! ( for example, NewScientist, 29.10.2014, B.Pasley ). I am theorist and inventor of the first practical device for reading human thoughts, AChM! I have a bad position and I can not publish my discovery but can speak on television or in front of an audience ! .Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com

  • Сурен Акопов

    Made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts, AChM; 2.аппарат для чтения мыслей человека, АЧМ; 3.human mind reading machine; 4.brain decoder inner voice; 5.brain decoding machine interface; 6.device for thoughts identification; 7. apparatus for subvocal recognition, SVR. Opening unpublished.I can not to publish my discovery! . Partnership Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com