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Showing entries tagged neurofeedback.  Show all entries

October 23, 2011

Plugged In: The Brain-Computer Interface


Imagine playing your favorite video game and controlling it just through thought. Sounds impossible right? Actually this technology already exists and is currently being used for therapeutic purposes. This amazing technology is called neurofeedback. It works by measuring an individual's brain waves at different states of being through the use of an EEG and then trains the brain to emulate those waves present in the desired state of the individual.

However this technology is very specific to each individual due to the fact that different people engage in different areas of their brain when they are in a particular state of being. Therefore two people who are in the same state will most likely have brain waves that are different from one another due to the difference in the neuronal circuits themselves and the way in which the neurons fire within the individual brains. Essentially the level of specificity is due to the fact that no two people think alike.

This makes it extremely important to achieve baseline measurements of brain activity for each individual. These baseline measurements are necessary in order to determine what area of the brain is active at a particular state of being and at what frequency do the brain waves in that area need to be at in order to improve that person's state of being. Another way of thinking about it is looking at these scans in order to finding the part of the brain in which the neurons are not optimally synapsing or working together. From this it can determine which brain functions need to be targeted in order to improve a particular state of being.

All of this baseline information is used to calculate the frequency range that the individual's brain waves need to be in for optimal functioning. Once that information is plugged into the computer, the individual trains their brain to work at the frequency through the use of videogames. Sensors that measure brain waves are placed on the person's head above the area of the brain that needs to show improvement. These sensors are connected to a computer that measures the brain waves and controls the game accordingly. For example, if a person achieves the determined brain wave range a space ship will go faster however if they start to get out of the range the ship slows down. If they are no where near the correct range a black fog engulfs the ship until that brain frequency is achieved again. Without this repetitive training it is impossible to effectively alter the neural synapses that dictate the state of being a person is in.

It's easy to see how this incredible technology could help people with autism, ADD, or ADHD to focus, relax, and improve their daily functioning. Not surprisingly it can also be used to help improve the concentration and functioning of people with normal brain activity as well because this technique focuses on optimizing the way in which the neurons synapse. Essentially, this technology is used to condition and train the brain to function in a particular manner.

But this begs the question, why not use this technology to brainwash people or to train soldiers? For one this technology is highly specific to each individual; not everyone has the same brain waves and neural connectivity. Another huge problem is the fact that this technology requires a participant that is willing to do the exercises to train their brain to work in this particular way. If the person isn't willing to put in the practice, their brain won't emulate the desired wave patterns and frequencies.

The only potential way in which this technology may be used for brainwashing is if a general picture of the population's brain waves could be imaged at various states of being and placed into a generic video game. The characters in the game would only move when a particular brain wave range associated with a predetermined state of being was emulated in the player. Thus the population could essentially be brainwashed if the game was engaging enough for the participant to want to play repeatedly, the fact that the player is being brainwashed is unknown to him/her, and the sensors on their head were placed above the area in which the brain waves were being altered.

For this reason neurofeedback technology is highly regulated and restricted to mainly therapeutic purposes only. So while it is possible to play basic videogames with just your mind, the ultimate gaming experience is just out of reach due to the plasticity of the human brain and the ethical questions that lie within it.

All information was taken from:
http://www.isnr.org/uploads/1995%20Abarbanel.pdf
http://www.eeginfo.com
*videos, research papers, and articles from this site were used
Posted by      Mari W. at 10:07 PM MDT
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