Brain-Machine Interface – Avatars Of The Future, A Reality

Brain-machine interface lets monkeys move two virtual arms with minds: study

Xinhua | 2013-11-7 | Global Times

 

US researchers said Wednesday that monkeys in a lab have learned to control the movement of both arms on an avatar using just their brain activity.

The findings, published in the US journal Science Translational Medicine, advanced efforts to develop bilateral movement in brain-controlled prosthetic devices for severely paralyzed patients, said researchers at Duke University, based in Durham, the state of North Carolina.

To enable the monkeys to control two virtual arms, the researchers recorded nearly 500 neurons from multiple areas in both cerebral hemispheres of the animals’ brains, the largest number of neurons recorded and reported to date.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from sensory and motor deficits caused by spinal cord injuries. Researchers are working to develop tools to help restore their mobility and sense of touch by connecting their brains with assistive devices.

The brain-machine interface approach holds promise for reaching this goal. However, until now brain-machine interfaces could only control a single prosthetic limb.

“Bimanual movements in our daily activities — from typing on a keyboard to opening a can — are critically important,” senior author Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neurobiology at Duke University School of Medicine said in a statement. “Future brain- machine interfaces aimed at restoring mobility in humans will have to incorporate multiple limbs to greatly benefit severely paralyzed patients.”

Nicolelis and his colleagues studied large-scale cortical recordings to see if they could provide sufficient signals to brain-machine interfaces to accurately control bimanual movements.

The monkeys were trained in a virtual environment within which they viewed realistic avatar arms on a screen and were encouraged to place their virtual hands on specific targets in a bimanual motor task. The monkeys first learned to control the avatar arms using a pair of joysticks, but were able to learn to use just their brain activity to move both avatar arms without moving their own arms.

As the animals’ performance in controlling both virtual arms improved over time, the researchers observed widespread plasticity in cortical areas of their brains. These results suggested that the monkeys’ brains may incorporate the avatar arms into their internal image of their bodies, a finding recently reported by the same researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers also found that cortical regions showed specific patterns of neuronal electrical activity during bimanual movements that differed from the neuronal activity produced for moving each arm separately.

The study suggested that very large neuronal ensembles — not single neurons — define the underlying physiological unit of normal motor functions, the researchers said, adding that small neuronal samples of the cortex may be insufficient to control complex motor behaviors using a brain-machine interface.

“When we looked at the properties of individual neurons, or of whole populations of cortical cells, we noticed that simply summing up the neuronal activity correlated to movements of the right and left arms did not allow us to predict what the same individual neurons or neuronal populations would do when both arms were engaged together in a bimanual task,” Nicolelis said. “This finding points to an emergent brain property — a non-linear summation — for when both hands are engaged at once.”

Nitric Oxide – Build Muscle

The Surprising New Tricks Pros Are Using to Build Muscle

Reading about sports these days, we are constantly bombarded with news of top notch athletes being exposed for using illegal steroids.

Steroid use involves huge costs, legal issues, and above all, potential health problems. With such risks, you wonder why anyone would be tempted to go this route.

Fortunately, steroid use may eventually be a thing of the past.  That’s because medical researchers studying how the human body builds muscle and endurance are developing safe and legal substances which can increase the body’s ability to build muscle, without the health risks associated with steroids.

One of the most interesting fields of research surrounds a naturally occurring chemical compound called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it helps move oxygen to the muscles when they need it most. Increased nitric oxide in the blood stream signals the blood vessel walls to relax, which allows more blood to flow to the body’s muscles, thus delivering more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

It’s been shown to lead to:

  • Drastic Muscle Gains
  • Increased Blood Flow and Oxygen Delivery
  • Boosted Strength, Endurance, and Power
  • Support for Your Immune System
  • Immediate Results
  • Total Body Transformation

While the body naturally increases nitric oxide during workouts, it’s only a limited amount and researchers have been focused on artificially increasing your nitric oxide levels.

One of the most successful products that has emerged from this research is called Factor 2.  It uses “arginines,” special amino acids specifically linked to nitric oxide production to significantly increase oxygen and nutrient flow to the muscles during workouts.  As a result, it can safely spark powerful muscle growth, muscle definition, and strength.

Factor 2 produces noticeable results by maximizing your muscle gains as you power through your workouts and within a few weeks, users are starting to notice additional muscle definition and strength.

Factor 2 is now the recognized leader in nitric oxide stimulation and legal, safe muscle and strength enhancement.  It was Bodybuilding.com’s Best New Brand of the Year (2011) and pro athletes are taking note.

Athletes like professional football player Vernon Davis have discovered the dramatic benefits of using a nitric oxide supplement. Davis has been an advocate of Factor 2 since first taking it, telling his teammates in San Francisco, “Factor 2 has proven results. I believe in results.”

UK Economy : Post London Olympics 2012

Instant View: BoE sees flat economy in near-term – minutes

LONDON |         Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:50am GMT

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy is likely to remain broadly flat in the near term but inflation would probably exceed 2 percent in the next year or so, minutes to the Bank of England’s December 5-6 meeting showed on Wednesday.

Following are analysts’ reactions to the minutes.

ROB WOOD, BERENBERG BANK

“I don’t think anything stands out. It’s a picture of a committee on hold for the time being. There seems to be no big change of views- David Miles voting for more QE, the others holding off.

“The big news is that inflation is above target and likely to stay there. Weak productivity is spooking the committee.

“But these minutes really are more of the same. You have eight members who really don’t think much has changed on the month, weak productivity is stopping them from doing more.

“Our view is that as we head into next year, weak growth is likely going to force a change, (at the moment) they are putting a lot of faith in the Funding for Lending Scheme.”

ROSS WALKER, RBS

“There was a little line near the front talking about the substantial risks to the inflation forecasts – they were all on the upside.

“To me it feels like it’s reinforcing a neutral policy stance. Sluggish growth, overshooting inflation makes it difficult to do anything with policy.

“It’s very hard to see anything before February and more likely before May.

“It’s not as if they’re not doing anything – there is that outstanding stock of gilt purchases and the FLS anecdotally seems to be working on some front.

“It’s going to take time. Barring any big shocks, it feels like we’re probably not going to get, for example, further QE in the first half of next year. But I don’t think you can rule these things out categorically. We’ve seen external shocks blowing everything off course.”

JAMES KNIGHTLEY, ING

“With the Funding for Lending Scheme showing tentative signs of supporting lending there seems to be little appetite for more stimulus at the moment.

“However, should the United States topple off the fiscal cliff and if the Euro zone situation deteriorates the Bank of England will probably have to act again.”

NEVILLE HILL, CREDIT SUISSE

“It doesn’t look as if there is any imminent change in balance or mood on the committee, so very much on hold.

“Perhaps the only interesting point is that they seem unhappy with the level of currency at the moment, saying that the lack of competitiveness in the last couple of years was a headwind to UK exporters.

“The main thing for next year is whether there is a change in tone from the new governor.”

BRIAN HILLIARD, SOCIETE GENERALE

“Nothing very exciting this time – but we didn’t expect it to be. Miles is looking for more stimulus – so he has been consistent.

“Much of the weakness in exports come from services. They are becoming a little more downbeat that net exports will boost growth.

“There is a little bit of a question mark over the strength of consumption – the Q3 bounce in GDP from the Olympics was less than they would have expected.”

PHILIP SHAW, INVESTEC

“Very much as expected. The discussions suggest that developments over the month hadn’t really changed the balance of the monetary policy debate and it will probably take another two months of data potentially to shift arguments one way or the other.

“We take the views that last week’s construction data reduced the risk of a contraction of GDP over Q4 and so it’s possible that the committee’s commentary over the economy from early next year becomes a little less downbeat.

“Finally, our central view is that the MPC will refrain from sanctioning any further QE over 2012 but clearly that’s subject to economic developments.”

MELANIE BOWLER, MOODY’S ANALYTICS

“Weakening price pressures will allow monetary policy to remain expansionary.

“The use of further unconventional monetary policy tools is also possible, especially should the economy fail to grow as anticipated, or if it is subject to a shock.

“While questions have arisen over the effectiveness of the bank’s quantitative easing policy, further asset purchases have not been ruled out.

“And although the bank’s funding for lending scheme has yet to translate into stronger lending to the private sector, the bank’s latest quarterly bulletin…notes that there are tentative signs that the policy, which is set to run until the end of 2013, is starting to have (an) effect.”

(Reporting by London newsroom)

 

Economics of Military

The involvement of armed forces in the security of London Olympics 2012 proved that shrinking military is not an option. Involvement of military in the largest peacetime operation ever in the history of UK went down splendidly.

 

The Guardian home

Army warns Olympic Games recovery will take two years

Military faces big task to get back to normal, says planning chief, after deploying 18,000 troops to London 2012 duties

, defence and security correspondent | The Guardian, Monday 13 August 2012 20.30 BST

The armed forces will take two years to recover from their involvement in the Olympic Games because so many personnel have been deployed at short notice and taken away from normal duties, the military‘s chief planner for the Games has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Wing Commander Peter Daulby also warned that critics who wanted a smaller military put the country at risk of not being able to cope with these kind of civil emergencies, or a “national strategic shock”.

Daulby, who was put in charge of the military’s Olympic planning 18 months ago, said the need to send thousands of extra troops to the Games at the last minute after the G4S debacle showed “the country needs a military for more than war fighting”.

Describing the Olympics as the largest peacetime operation ever performed by the armed forces, he said: “It just shows you the dangers of pulling the military down. I am sure that there are some people who think that if we are a smaller military power we will be less likely to get involved in international operations.

“If we shrink the military, do we really understand what we are losing? Look at the speed with which we pushed up the throttle. It proves the military offers the country a huge amount of resilience.”

Daulby, 45, was one of several senior officers who spoke to the Guardian about the military’s contribution to the Olympics, which increased more than threefold from May last year.

Then, only 5,000 personnel were expected to be deployed, but that increased to 18,000 when the Olympic organisers Locog admitted they had significantly underestimated the number of security guards needed at the venues – and G4S conceded it had over-estimated its ability to recruit and train the extra staff.

“We were originally planning to provide niche capabilities,” said Daulby. “When the requirement for venue security was doubled, that was a bit of a game changer. We had to generate 18,000 people. That does not mean that there are 18,000 spare people. It means that the government has prioritised [the Olympics].

“It will take two years to recover from this, to get back to normal, to get everything back into kilter. You can’t expect them to go back to normal routine very easily.”

He said the UK’s commitment to Afghanistan had not been affected by the Olympics, but the military had exceeded by 6,000 the maximum number of people he thought the Ministry of Defence could supply.

“Anything above 18,000 and you start to shut down elements of defence,” he said.

“We put a bucket of men up and that was taken. We put another bucket of men up and that was taken. We have proved we can do it … most people think they have done something really special here. I think there is a great sense that the UK has nailed this.”

The rush to train and get everyone ready meant “we were building the plane at the same time as flying the plane”, he said.

“We did not think that it would be healthy for the Olympic Games to be too militarised. Our fears were not well founded. It has been an enhancing experience.”

Brigadier Richard Smith said the scale and difficulty of the military’s role in London 2012 was comparable to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In terms of threat it is not comparable, but in terms of scale it is more than comparable. The complexity of the basing and the training to get them to task … it’s been a massive operation in a short space of time.

“In Iraq and in Helmand, we could build up over time and establish ourselves. For this we had a short space of time and we had to get it right first time.”

Smith said the armed forces had realised the need to reconnect with the British people after years of operations abroad, and admitted there was anxiety how the public would react to so many people in uniform at a sporting event.

With the UK withdrawing from Afghanistan, and British bases in Germany being closed, too, the public will need to get used to seeing more of the military, he said. “It is a really important point. We recognised we have an opportunity to set conditions for us when we are predominantly UK-based armed forces. We want to easily connect with the people from whom we are drawn. This has given us the opportunity to show us as professional and approachable human beings.”

Smith said the military had tried to be flexible when presented with concerns, including those from some competitors. “In the equestrian community, they were worried that the helicopters from HMS Ocean would scare the competitors in the dressage at Greenwich Park. We adjusted the flight paths so they did not. We didn’t want to blunder in as a blunt tool.”

Asked if the military could mount a similar operation in five years’ time – when defence cuts will have stripped 20,000 posts from the army – he said: “I am not going to answer that. Give us a challenge and we will rise to it.”

Among the most difficult tasks in the days before the Games was finding enough portable toilets and showers to equip Tobacco Dock, east London, where 2,500 personnel were stationed for the Games. The military works on the basis of one toilet for 10 people, and one shower for every 20.

 

“It has been a mammoth task,” said Major Austin Lillywhite. “We had to go to Ireland for the portable toilets. We couldn’t find them anywhere else at such short notice.”

The MoD hired 192 coaches to ferry troops to and from the Olympic venues, and spent £300,000 on equipment such as TVs for entertainment at the temporary bases.

It also signed a laundry contract so that military uniform for everyone on duty had been cleaned and ironed.

“We want the men and women to look a good standard. If they all turned their irons on at the same time in the morning, the power would go down.”

None of these contracts are coming out of the military budget. The Treasury and G4S will be paying for the military’s extra contributions.

G4S announced on Sunday that it was giving £2.5m to the armed forces as a goodwill gesture. The donation will go towards welfare amenities, including sports equipment, and to sports associations which have backed serving athletes, including rowing gold medallists Heather Stanning and Pete Reed.

Provisions supplied to feed the Olympics troops

Eggs: 205,800

Vanilla ice cream: 21,056 litres

Potatoes: 38,999 kilograms

Sausages: 7,756 kilograms

Apples: 33,376

Beef: 7,252 kilograms

Chicken: 5,240 kilograms