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#Neurobiology of #ComputerInterfaces

Posted on March 18th, 2017


3/17/2017 @Hunter College, 68th & Lexington Ave, New York, Lang Theater

Three talks were on the neurobiology of the computer interfaces were given by

Ellen Pearlman – Utopic or Dystopic

Ruben Van de Ven – Emotional Hero/We Know How You Feel

Greg Garvey – Split Brain

Ellen Pearlman talked about brain computer interfaces. The most available commercial devices are from Emotive, Muse, OpemBCI. The devices need smoothing and feature extraction algorithms to find signal in the noise. Devices take 8 seconds to calibrate and 150 milliseconds for a signal to be detected and transmitted by the device. One of the key signals is the P300 MERMER which indicates that you recognize someone/something.

She talked about the large increase in brain research funding recently by DARPA, NIH and NSF with the IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects) program soliciting proposals.

Ellen next talked about

  1. Semantic brain maps, which highlight the locations associated with particular stimuli
  2. Optogenetics which can implant false memories which can be turned on and off with blue and orange light
  3. Cortical modems, which can transmit images directly to the brain bypassing the senses (Cubic Corp is working on this)
  4. Brain data stored in the cloud (Cloudbrain and Qusp have been uploading brain data)

Finally, she showed her performance piece, Noor, a brain opera, in which a performer’s brain waves trigger visual patterns as the performer interacts with the audience


Next, Ruben Van de Ven  talked about the challenges faced by machine learning methods that claim to determine one’s emotions from facial images. Applications using this technology include ‘Emotion Hero’ a games you can download from the Google Play Store and Hire-vue which evaluations people during job interviews.

Paul Ekman developed the ‘Facial action coding system’ which is the classification scheme used. But, Ruben notes that context affects how we interpretation an expression. Also the validity of the face classification is reliant on human subjective coding in the 19th century from a French asylum. Both place the science behind these methods on shaky ground.

In addition, the software is often marketed as both objective and as a tool for training individuals to mislead the software. But how can the software work if one can learn to manipulate it?


Greg Garvey talked about how his art installation take advantage of the modularized brain which is split into left and right processing. His installations show different images to the left and right eyes (and therefore to the left and right brain hemispheres) to raise internal cognitive conflicts in the image being viewed.

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