Directing attention via machine

A new brain-machine interface demonstrates how humans direct their thoughts

Megan Scudellari
Oct 26, 2010
Using a novel brain-machine interface linking neurons with a visual display, researchers reveal how humans pay attention to some things and ignore the wealth of distracting information surrounding them. The tool, described this week in linkurl:Nature,;http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html may someday provide assistance to people with neurological impairments such as locked-in syndrome. "This is the first I know of recording populations of individual neurons during an attention task [in humans]," said linkurl:John Reynolds,;http://www.salk.edu/faculty/reynolds.html a neurobiologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, who was not involved in the study. "It's really consistent with our thinking about the way attentional mechanisms work."
Illustration of populations of neurons
encoding concepts in the patient's brain.
Created by Moran Cerf and Maria Moon
Humans' senses are being constantly stimulated by a wealth of information. "We don't know how the brain decides to attend to this thing and not that," said first author Moran Cerf,...
The brain-machine interface
Created by Moran Cerf and Maria Moon
Cerf, M. et al., "On-line, voluntary control of human temporal lobe neurons," Nature, 467:1104-8, 2010.



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