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Quick and Dirty Guide on Transcranial Current Stimulation

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While heading to Petronas Technology University where I will give a course on transcranial current stimulation (tCS) basics I summarized the basics of the technology and particularly on Starstim, the device we envisioned and started to develop within the HIVE project. tCS devices allow the controlled injection of low-amplitude electrical currents into the cerebral cortex through the electrodes, which are non-invasively placed on the scalp. In this sense they play the opposite role to EEG, i.e. not for monitoring brain activity but for modifying it. There has been some advancement in the tCS field, but the technology and its effects on the brain are still not fully understood. Well, the effects are showing up more and more as studies and clinical trials increase. As a matter of fact, publications on tCS have multiplied by a factor of 4 in the last 4 years, and the clinical trials involving it, even by a factor of 10. But what is still not really understood is what causes this effect from both an electrophysiological as well as therapeutic point of view. I would like to comment on the electrophysiological effects giving some quick hints on what makes the applied electrical current affect the brain activity at the neuronal level. The state of the art is far from this understanding on its effects at neuronal population level and at a global brain level, i.e. connectivity, which have been much less studied.  

Top coolest applications of BCI and Neuroestimulation in the movies

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In my last post I started with a quote from “The Matrix”. Here I would like to go a bit further and make a quick review of the top coolest applications of BCI and Neurostimulation that we often see (and sometimes give for granted) in popular movies.         

Vision-based emotion recognition

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How many times would you have liked to know what the person in front of you was feeling? Perhaps, you were criticizing a specific brand in an interview, and the guy just in front of you was a self-devoted user of this brand. Or the other way around: the interviewer was interested on knowing what your feelings were regarding a specific issue during the interview. How useful would an emotion recognition system have been in those situations?

The Social Brain

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We all know that we are extremely social animals but just how far does this go? Many believe that human intelligence evolved to solve our complex social problems rather than ecological problems as was previously assumed. Robin Dunbar lays this out in his 1998 paper “The Social Brain Hypothesis”. You may have heard of Dunbar’s Number, which refers to the number of people we can reasonably maintain relationships with, and it is directly related to our social processing power. In fact the number of individuals in various primates social groups and how this correlates to the size of their respective neocortex is in part what drove this theory.

Why some people can sleep easily with noise and others just can´t?

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Rest is a determining factor in human life, necessary and essential to stay productive the entire day. However, sometimes there are some external noises such as thunderstorms, music or even vehicles that keep us from sleeping. But ... do these noises affect us all equally? Are we all aware of these sounds?

Spoofing biometric systems or just trying?

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In a previous post I talked about biometric systems and how electro-physiological signals such as the EEG and the ECG can be combined to obtain a reliable biometric system. Today I'd like to continue from where I left you last time. I specifically want to tell you about one of the main challenges such systems might face nowadays: how to respond to spoofing attacks. As you might know a spoofing attack is defined as someone trying to defeat a biometric system by presenting a fake biometric trait to the sensor.

HORIZON 2020 and Neuroscience

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 Horizon 2020
is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

As the European Commission stated: “The Europe 2020 strategy focuses on encouraging economic growth, creating new jobs, increasing industrial competitiveness, improving quality of life and encouraging social inclusion. The plan targets many of the challenges facing European society and research sectors regarding the brain.”

7 metrics of consciousness levels based on EEG

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A few days ago, we posted in the blog a discussion on consciousness. We gave an overview on the definition of consciousness. While humankind has struggled with this formidable question for millennia, recent developments in neuroscience study, model, and aim to quantify consciousness. It is precisely this last aspect that raised my interest these days, namely how to quantitatively establish a consciousness scale based on EEG. In this context, it is worth mentioning a recent special issue of the journal EEG and Clinical Neuroscience. Such metrics are of enormous interest not only from a philosophical and theoretical point of view, but from a clinical one, given the important consequences that a right diagnosis has in the treatment and care of people with consciousness disorders, e.g. locked-in, coma, vegetative state patients.  

 The newest published measurement procedure

In the most recent work dealing with this question, a procedure described by Casali and colleagues is based on the application of a TMS pulse to subjects. After this the response of the subjects’ brain is measured with EEG. The measured signals are then represented through a binary two-dimensional map (aka an image) related to the connectivity in the brain. An algorithm that we use daily in our computers for compressing files, i.e. this used for zipping files, is then applied to measure the complexity of the binary map with a unique index denoted as Perturbational Complexity Index (PCI). The more complex the map is, the more conscious the subject. An interesting aspect of the procedure in this paper is that it has been consistently applied to subjects with very different consciousness levels, e.g. anesthetized, in vegetative state, healthy. 

Measuring the effect of meditation using EEG


 During the next weeks in Starlab/Neuroelectrics we will conduct a study on meditation patterns measured in EEG brain signals. First of all, I would say that previously I had no idea about what mediation was, I have never practiced yoga or any other meditation technique, and obviously I am far from being an expert in the field. After reading and learning a bit about meditation, its effects and scientific evidences I have realized that this is a fascinating topic with a wide variety of potential applications. Through this post, I would like to share some information that I have gathered about this topic. Please feel free to comment, add any information you may consider relevant or even refute what it is written!

Game of Brains

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The traditional advertising and marketing has evolved immensely in the past few decades. As a kid I still remember that the most influential advertisement I came across was a radio ad: “…sound of a soda bottle opening, following with the sound of liquids being spilled and swallowed. Then a voice saying: Coca Cola the taste of life… “.  Although it was a very simple ad the timing or it was the key, it was always broadcasted on hot days at noon- it was so simple!

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