The TutorTech2000

July 31, 2014

The TutorTech2000 is every educators dream. Not only can it assess a student’s present understanding on virtually any topic, it also serves to fill in any gaps in their knowledge through a personalized learning program. Advancing the education system more than ever before, students will learn more often, efficiently, and in more depth. Of course, the TutorTech2000 is not just for students. As long as humans have more to learn, this technology can be used by anyone and everyone!

The sleek and multi-functional design is non-invasive (think Google Glass), but it is unlikely you would ever want to take it off! The design has been optimized to function with only four electrodes – two which connect behind the ear, and one on each temple. In addition, the TutorTech2000 has a built-in microphone, to listen to your commands, as well as a speaker, to give its own. Fitted with a mini-projector and prism, you can see practice problems, diagrams, or whole websites in real time.

TutorTech Diagram

(image adapted from Google Glass)

Here’s how it works. You tell the TutorTech2000 which subject you want to brush up on. Say, your multiplication tables. Through voice control, it processes this command and projects for you a series of problems to test your current understanding of the topic. You see the first problem in front of you: 3 x 3. Without a second thought, you respond correctly to the headset. Your brain signals are recorded between the span of time in which you are given a question and you submit the answer. Since, in this case, that time span was incredibly short, the system registers your level of confidence with this problem. As a result, it ups the challenge and presents you with 9 x 7. For arguments sake, say that you are now struggling. You rack your brain to remember the answer that you had tried to memorize yesterday, but to no avail. So you go about the process of counting out one nine, two nines, three nines, and so on until you arrive at the correct answer. Your brain action and subsequently the signals processed in the latter scenario are much different than the former. It is on this basis that the TutorTech2000 can gauge how much and how deeply you understand something.

Following this assessment, the headset will project a step-by-step explanation of the problem and perhaps re-explain certain concepts that it sensed you especially struggled with. By also measuring your brain signals during the teaching session, the TutorTech2000 will eventually be able to distinguish between when you are comprehending the presented information, and when you are confused, frustrated, and feel as though the material is completely over your head. With that data, it will continue to adapt the curriculum accordingly.

Of course, this technology will work with countless subjects: from multiplication to long division, calculus, physics, neuroscience, history, literature, and everything in between. The testing and teaching methods will somewhat vary among them, but the general recording and revising process will remain the same. In each scenario, the TutorTech2000 will measure the signals from the indicated brain locations, acting as an EEG.

TutorTech Electrodes

The interpretation of this data is the greatest challenge in this design, but huge steps have already been taken in this direction. One program already exists which uses an EEG to measure levels of certain predefined short and long term emotions, including engagement/boredom, frustration, and instantaneous excitement. All of these could have applications in recording an individual’s level of understanding.

Affectiv Suite

In addition, Google Glass technology has already implemented the described visual overlay system, as well as the voice-controlled Internet communication.

Combining these technologies is one challenge in itself, even without the alterations for processing cognition. In addition, working towards the element of practicality could require at least another decade. The TutorTech2000 should be functional mobile, without significantly hindering the user’s daily life. In that regard, sizing and sensitivity are also key. Although some current EEG systems have as few as four electrodes, others have as many as 256. Optimizing results while minimizing space could take years in itself.

With all of this in mind, I can see at least prototypes of this technology being created within a few decades. Perhaps in 50-some years, education will be revolutionized as we know it!


SNX27 Protein Placer

July 31, 2014

The SNZ27 Protein Placer (SPP) is a recently developed shot that enables humans to place the SNZ27 protein into the brains of people who have down syndrome. At around the year 2013, it was found that people diagnosed with down syndrome lacked the SNZ27 Protein; hence, they had less glutamate receptors, impairing their memory and learning. Finally, we have found a human-safe product that will enable our down syndrome patients to take a step forward in the ridding of the mutation.

The SNX27 protein works in the plasma membranes of the brain. We have been successful in creating an artificial copy of the protein which does the exact same job as the original protein: helping with the retrogade transport from the endosome to the plasma membrane. The final product will be placed in the brain by a protein filled shot. This shot is able to reach the brain because we have enabled it to only cover the central nervous system. Also, this would not have been possible without the making of another protein that will allow the SNX27 proteins to follow neurons. Therefore, after being injected to the arm, it will follow the sensory neurons to the interneurons. Then it will travel up the spinal cord and reach the brain.

This is a very “futuristic” idea. First, in order to accomplish this, we would need to create an artificial copy of the SNX27 protein. Then, we would need to make a shot that is able to hold a sufficient amount of this protein. Finally, and the most unlikely, we would need to find a way for the protein to reach the brain safely without going anywhere else. Discovering all of these things may take a long, long time.

20140731_230225


Science Fiction: Imaginary Neuro-Tech- The MIIM(Mental Illness Imaging Machine)

July 31, 2014

The Mental Illness Imaging Machine(MIIM) is an imaging device that can diagnose mental disorders.  The machine itself would look very similar to a MRI or CT Scan Machine.  For physical illnesses, there are currently tests(i.e. blood tests or current imaging devices) that can definitely prove whether or not a patient has a certain disease.  This is a great ability to have, and it cuts out “guess and check” diagnosis’ and allows treatment to begin sooner.  Currently, no such technology exists for diagnosing mental disorders.  Psychiatrists have to make educated guess based on behavioral manifestations, and there is no way to be sure of a diagnosis.  Many mental disorders have similar symptoms, so sometimes people are misdiagnosed and so not receive adequate treatment.  Often times, psychiatrists have to prescribe medications on speculation of what will work best, and it takes many tries to find an appropriate medication.  The MIIM will allow accurate diagnoses and more accurate treatment.  The MIIM can be used by psychiatrists whenever evaluating a patient.  Also, many people live large segments of their lives with undiagnosed mental disorders, which yields sometimes devastating results(i.e. poor relationships with others, troubling thoughts, and even suicide.)  The MIIM can also be used not only when psychiatric help is sought, but also as a precautionary tool.  It could be used early in life to screen children and teenagers, and also used later in life to test “high-risk” people(i.e. people with a family history of mental illness.)

Right now, very little is know about the neurobiological causes and mechanisms of mental illnesses.  This knowledge would be necessary to invent this device.  Because of this, I am not exactly sure what must be measured, but I will speculate that eventually,a certain, specific gene, protein, or neuron will be known to cause every different mental disorder.  This “target” gene, protein, or neuron will be only be found in individuals with a certain mental illness.  Once these targets are found to be exclusively common to a mental disorder, the MIIM can be made.

Tracers will be created that bind to the abnormal target.  For example, let’s say it is discovered that mental disorder A is cause by the presence of neurons releasing an abnormal strand of neurotransmitter X, and this abnormal strand is exclusive to mental disorder A, and it is common to all patients.  A protein tracer will develop that seeks out these neurons  by recognizing abnormal strand X’s unique, mutated genetic sequence.  It is key to the MIIM that that these so called microscopic tracers can be developed and accurately target the discovered abnormality.  These tracer proteins, for many different mental disorders, will be dissolved in a liquid, and the patient will drink the liquid before entering the MIIM terminal.  After Y amount of minutes, the tracers will be in the brain, and located to the abnormal targets.  The tracers that have nothing to bind to will exit the brain.

Once the patient is in the MIIM, the machine will release signals that recognize the tracers still located in the brain.  It will “pick up” which tracer it is, where it is located, and how much is bound.  I am not entirely sure of the science behind these signals and pick ups.  It can either be small levels of radioactive substances, and the decay will be picked up and formed into the image, but this is probably very dangerous.  The optimal solution will be that upon binding, the tracers emit a signal or wave if you will(due to a chemical reaction-i.e. when the tracers binds and is in presence of abnormal neurotransmitter strand X, a reaction occurs that emits a wave.  Again I’m not entirely sure of the science, which I think does not currently exist, so it would need to be developed.)  The machine would then measure the emitted waves and form the image.  The image would show the colored brain, indicating tracers, and a computer would produce a summary.  The summary would include each mental disorder tested and a bar.  If the bar is blank, that indicates the test is negative for that illness.  If the test is positive, the bar would be filled with a color corresponding to the brain image.  There would be mild, moderate, and severe categories based on how large the presence of the target is.  The image below shows the basic process in pictures, an example report and image taken, and also a timeline(will be discussed below).  This imaging diagnostic tool enables more accurate diagnoses and treatment.

MIIM

Timeline:

2014(#1): conception of the idea for the MIIM

2032(#2): discovery of a gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2041(#3):discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2046(#4): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2049(#5): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2058(#6): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2063(#7): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2077(#8): discovery of a different gene, protein, or neuron that causes a mental illness(and can be used as a target)

2082(#9): tracers are developed

2084(#10): machine is developed

2086(#11):  animal trials

2087(#12): human trials begin

2091(#13): practical implementation begins

I believe that the MIIM would be  a great tool to use and develop in the field of neuro-technology, and I hope that one day a similar device exists.


Neuroscience and the Law

July 30, 2014

As the years have passed the use of neuroscience technologies in court cases have dramatically increased.  William Moulton Marston early 20th century invention of the polygraph which is also known as the lie detector changed the scape of criminal investigation and court cases.  His polygraph recorded signals like heart rate dips, blood pressure boosts, slowed breathing, and increased sweating to see if a person was telling the truth or lying. However, a major flaw of this system was that many of the things that it tested like heart rate were not caused because the person being interviewed was lying, but because they were feeling pressured sitting in front of a lie director.

Due to the fact that the lie detector is proving to be ineffective courts and lawyers are trying to find better ways to solve cases. One such technology is the use of brain scans.  The utilization of something called fMRI provides measures of neural activity in brain areas.  They help scan the brain to see if the person tested is attempting to conceal some type of information.  This type of test was used in the United States v. Semrau case. However, the magistrate argued that this test was ineffective as it could not tell the result of any single question, but only if the defendant answered a majority of the questions truthfully.  This shows how the bran scanning technology is still not good enough to use in a major court case.  One positive thing the  brain scanning technology shows us that the brain truly has the capability to suppress information and that there are ways to see if people are lying.  However, this will never come to use unless the technology is perfected.  While it can tell if a majority of questions were answered objectively and truthfully, in a court case were one detail can make the difference it is essential to know every little detail.  How could the judge tell if the most critical question was answered correctly? What if that question literally asked if the defendant murdered the victim? Personally, I recommend that this technology should not be used.  It is better and more effective at this time to use human judgment, because there is not much room for error.  There are also too many arguments that could be formulated against these neurological methods.

Another case that involved neurological technologies is the case against Brian Dugan who was charged for murder multiple times.  A neuroscientist named Kent Kiehl decided to use fMRI technology for the first time in order to prove to help Dugan avoid the death penalty and show that he committed his crimes because he was a psychopath with uncontrollable killer instincts. Kiehl truly wanted to help Dugan out because he was interested in researching about people with psychological problems, but Dugan’s lawyers used Kiehl’s evidence for more selfish reasons.  The court case ended up with Dugan getting the death penalty, but Kiehl was able to utilize his technology to prove that Dugan truly had severe psychological problems.  These tests tell us that the brain truly can have defects leading to this maladies.  However, even though this technology can be useful it may not be the best avenue. In cases like Dugan prosecutors always can have the argument that actions and not brain anatomy should decide if someone is guilty or not.  The question will always rise whether anatomical tests should be the true judge of these court cases.

 

As time passes and technology improves more cases like this one will pop.  I personally recommend that we should continue going on and solving these cases like we are now.  Neurological technology will just further complicate, corrupt, and harm the political system until it is refined to perfection.


Neuro-Tech

July 30, 2014

photo

During my 8th grade year I had to give a presentation on autism, because we were studying genetic diseases.  Due to the fact that I have had some previous knowledge and exposure to the subject, I have decided to design a microchip system for autistic children.  This advanced system is going to be utilized to measure the mental capacity, functions, capability, and academic potential that autistic kids contain.  Through some research, I learned that autistic kids contain more academic potential than other children, but it is very hard to bring that potential to life.  It is puzzling to why this is this case. Thus, I believe it would be quite interesting to find out how the brains and learning ability of autistic students in the 8th grade differ from the average student.

Dr. Menon, a professor at Stanford University, recently said to Fox News that “Understanding brain systems and signaling processes that are inflexible is an important step for characterizing the neurobiological correlates of autism,” Menon said. “We suggest that the brain measures developed in our study might be useful for indexing response to treatment, for better characterizing systems which are inflexible, and designing interventions that target those systems.” Scientists such as Menon believe that autistic children are different due to the inflexibility of their brain.  Additionally, they believe problems are also caused due to trouble with communication between the hemispheres and other parts of the brain. These communication problems are caused, as Stephanie Watson reported in her article Autism Basics by “Irregularities in the brain structures themselves, such as in the corpus callosum (which facilitates communication between the two hemispheres of the brain), amygdala (which affects emotion and social behavior), and cerebellum (which is involved with motor activity, balance, and coordination). They believe these abnormalities occur during prenatal development”. There are also differences in neurotransmitter, chiefly glutamate and serotonine.

My mechanical neurotransmitter is meant to find these specific inflexibilities and test brain imbalances.  As seen on the diagram a chip is implanted in the patient’s brain and is connected to a wireless receptor which is attached to a data analyzer and computer.  The computer will track a series of mental tests which will test things like emotional, physical, and mental responses of the autistic patient. In another room a regular student will also be attached to a separate microchip system.  The microchip, as seen in the picture, will have wires connecting to all parts of the brain.  All of the tests conducted will see if

In order for my invention to work there needs to be certain technological advances.  Firstly, there needs to be a way to fit a micro chip safely into a child’s mind.  Even though brain implants are mostly successful they need to be perfected in order for this experiment to successfully work.  Additionally, there needs to be a way for the chip to be routed to a wireless connector.  Without this no data can be effectively collected.  I would assume that my invention can realistically be possible in the next 2-3 years.  With the recent brain implants being conducted by scientists and surgeons I assume technology will be good enough to make this type of design work.

 

Sources

Kwan, N. (2014, July 29). For children with autism, brain inflexibility may explain behavior. Fox News. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/29/for-children-with-autism-brain-inflexibility-may-explain-behavior/

Watson, S. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks “The Autistic Brain”. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/autism/autism3.htm


United States Flag Illusion

July 29, 2014

us_flag illusion

In this optical illusion, you stare at the flag for 30 seconds, then look at a blank space and see the american flag in the correct colors.  We see the famed red, white and blue when we look away because our photoreceptors adapt after looking at the colors for a period of time and stop responding.  We have three different color cone cells, red, blue and green. When we look at the turquoise stripes on the flag, both the blue and green cone cells adapt and stop responding so when we look away, we see red.  It’s the same thing for the base of the stars, our red and green cone cells fire, adapt and stop responding then we only see blue!  Its a very similar thing for the black stars and stripes in this illusion, except to rod cells which pick up white and black.   This optical illusion tells us more about how we perceive colors and that our cones and rods stop firing after a certain period of time.

Sources: http://kin450-neurophysiology.wikispaces.com/Visual+Illusions


Hermann Grid Illusion

July 29, 2014

Hermann Grid

In this illusion, dark grey circles seem to appear at the intersections of the white lines on the dark grid. If you look directly at an intersection, the circle at that intersection will disappear.

Scintillating Hermann Grid

Another version of this illusion is the scintillating Hermann Grid. In this version of the illusion, white circles are present at all of the interesections of the grid. When looking at the illusion, it seems as if dark dots are rapidly appearing and disappearing from the intersections. If your eye is kept on a single intersection, no dot will appear there and any dots that are too close or too far from that intersection will also disappear.

Explanations

The explanation that is most commonly used to explain both of these illusion is a neural process called lateral inhibition. Lateral inhibition is based on the fact that we use retinal ganglion cells gather information from more than one photoreceptor. When one photorecptor detects light, it becomes excited. However, the surrounding photoreceptors inhibit the cell. This inhibition leads to the area appearing darker than it actually is.

Now lets apply this process to the Hermann Grid. When you look directly at an intersection, it is being looked at with your fovea which has very little lateral inhibition allowing you to see it clearly. However, the intersections in your peripheral vision experience a great deal more lateral inhibition which makes them appear darker than they actually are which leads to the dark dots appearing.

Lateral inhibition is the most common theory, but it is not the only one. In fact, some people disagree with it on the basis that it does not take into account certain outcomes. When the lines of the grid are made slightly wavy, the illusion is stopped which lateral inhibition theory could not predict. In addition, lateral inhibition would make it seem as if decreasing the size of the grid would cause the illusion to stop because of decreased lateral inhibition. This is not true. Another explanation could be that the illusion is caused by the S1 type simple cells in the visual cortex.

What does this tell us? 

Even though there isn’t a consensus on why the illusion occurs, it still teaches us the very important lesson that our eyes see things that are not there and therefore are not one hundred percent accurate all of the time. If the lateral inhibition theory is to be believed, then it also tells us that our brain may change the colors in an image in order to better display it.

 


Scintillating Grid

July 29, 2014

Full-size image (80 K)

This optical illusion is known as the Scintillating Grid. This illusion was discovered by E. Lingelbach. If you scan the picture, scintillating black dots will appear over the white dots. This illusion has always fascinated me because it seems very simple but it extremely complex in reality. I always wanted to focus on one dot that was black but never could. Along with that, i never could really figure out whether the dots were black or white. Most illusions involve stationary lines bending or moving but this illusion is unique because the black dots seem to move and change color as you follow them.

The retina in the eye are composed of small nerves that function as light receptors. It has been known that you can illuminate on  a single receptor (R) without illuminating its neighbors. But adding illumination to R’s neighbors causes its response to decrease. This is known as ;lateral inhibition. The dark spots appear because light is coming from 4 sections of the grid but 2 sides have bands that going away from the intersection point. The region viewing the intersection is more  hindered than the region of the band leaving the intersection. This causes the intersection to seem darker than the other section. This shows that the visual system creates false images from color distortion due to the brain being unable to comprehend the picture.


Primrose Field

July 29, 2014

opitcal illusion primrose field

Primrose Field Presentation


The Spinning Dancer

July 29, 2014

spinning dancer illusion

This is an image of a body spinning, but is it going clockwise or counter-clockwise? At first glance, I saw it going clockwise, but if I looked away and then back, it appeared to be spinning backwards. You can see it going either way.

This illusion is called a bistable perception, just like this one, where you can either see faces or a vase

Of course, these images trick your brain into making false assumptions. In both of these situations, there are two completely valid images that your brain can view. But it is a problem to be seeing two different things, your brain needs one image to interpret and react upon. So it randomly chooses to see one or the other. There has been much research on the subject of ambiguous stimuli, but no concrete answers on why your brain chooses one over the other. it seems to just be a random choice. If your brain has no other information to determine what is the right image to see, all it can to is quickly choose one and go on.

In nature, which is what your brain is programmed to be viewing, misconceptions like this are usually not made. But when shown something man made like this, your brain can trick itself based on all the preconceptions and assumptions it would make in nature.

A fun fact about about images like this is that people have tried to use them as personality tests for a very long time, claiming that seeing it one way means you tend to use a certain side of your brain more, and therefore possess certain characteristics. However, things like that exaggerate the differences between the sides of the brain.

sources: http://greengabbro.net/2007/10/20/the-spinning-dancer-and-the-brain/  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959438803000990