Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Response BCI for non-verbal children

Tom Chau

Tom Chau uses a Brain Computer Interface to monitor music listening in children that are non-verbal. This machine connects to the brain and measures the oxygen and hemoglobin levels in the brain using colored light. The information is shown on the computer interface as red light when the brain is registering the stimuli. This process is used to harness weather the children are responding to music. First, they play brown noise to differentiate between the music and the noise and what they find is that the oxygen in the brain dissipates, to show to the lack of response through negative valence. Then they play a Sarah McLaughlin song and the topographic map of oxyhemoglobin in the brain is heavy on the left side and the blood flow increases through a lateralization of hemodynamic blood flow. There are significantly different responses to music through negative and positive valences as the child responds accordingly. With these oxy hemoglobin increases in the brains Tom Chau is able to conclude that they machine can detect weather the child is having a negative or positive experience in the brain.
This machine can be used to gauge a child’s emotional response to music and it seems successful at improving cognitive function in people with motor dysfunction. Beginning in the 1990s, research showed that the brain actually remains flexible even into old age. This concept is referred to as cortical plasticity, meaning that the brain is able to adapt in amazing ways to new circumstances. Learning something new or partaking in novel activities forms new connections between neurons and reduces the onset of age-related neurological problems. If an adult suffers a brain injury, other parts of the brain are able to take over the functions of the damaged portion.
This means that an adult can learn to use their brain forming new connections and adapting to this new use of neurons. In some circumstances where brain dysfunction occurs or there is grey matter in the brain these new findings conclude that our brains can accommodate changes to increase use in these regions to repair brain function and rehabilitate otherwise injured patients. This is exciting research as performer’s injury, motor skill disability and other forms of injury can be rehabilitated through the concept of cortical plasticity. Imagine if these children can begin to use their motor skills through the electromagnetic currents in these computers.

1 comment:

Olenka Slywynska said...

This is the first time that I have heard of BCI interfaces- thank you for introducing me, Amy! It seems like it is a very young field, and that it has already achieved quite a bit in terms of giving people abilities that they had lost. This is a rather complex topic for me- if I understand correctly active BCIs allow people to do things without the use of their central nervous system and passive BCIs allow us to know cognitive information about people without the nervous system producing any activity?

If I am correct what you are talking about in your response, when you speak of exciting advances, is active BCIs- BCIs that can help restore damaged vision, hearing and movement, when you speak of cortical plasticity. The relevance of active BCIs seems huge!

Tom Chau seems to focus more on receptive BCIs in his lecture. I have read that passive BCIs are a bit less researched and studied. However, from Tom’s research, it seems that passive BCIs could also have great positive effects, because through recognizing different valences, it allows non-verbal individuals to indicate whether they enjoy something or not. I am wondering whether the valence detection is just to music or to other things such as food, environmental circumstances, etc?

One interesting thing that I was wondering was about brown noise. Thomas Chau said that brown noise reduced hemoglobin activity in the medial-prefrontal cortex. I know that many people (myself included) like to sleep with brown noise. I wonder if this is because it decreases hemoglobin in the brain and allows you to stop thinking, and better fall asleep.