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¶ what is the brain's API?
Michael Black came and gave a distinguished lecture last week. He spoke about a group he's working with that's trying to build a neural motor prosthesis. Basically, they implant an electrode array into the part of your brain that controls motor function. Using all the filtering and estimation techniques that modern machine learning provides (kalman filters, bayesian inference, etc.), they try to interpret the signals emitted by the neurons in that part of the brain to let patients control stuff.

Today, John Wyatt came and gave a talk on building retinal implants to restore vision to the blind. The idea there is to take patients who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration, and use an electrical device to replace their damaged rods and cones. The device is used to electrically stimulate the cells that the rods and cones would have otherwise stimulated. Isn't anywhere near close to letting blind people read and write, but they're making some exciting progress.

Seems like it's a fun time to be an electrical-neuroscientist / mad scientist / Dr. Patrick Cory.

I wonder how much crap they get from PETA and other animal rights activists. The neural motor prosthesis people go through hordes of monkeys and monkey skulls trying to figure out good techniques and methods. The retinal implants people like to use a certain kind of pig because it has an eyeball that's just about the same size as a human's. There aren't very many standard surgical procedures that involve cutting open someon's retina and inserting an electrical device, so they try out new surgical techniques on the pigs. Poor pigs, living their lives and rolling around in the mud one day and then getting little pieces of PCB shoved in their eyeballs the next. All in the name of science (and medicine), though.

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