Month: December 2013

DARPA on the Brain

Neuron News from DPR has highlighted some interesting activity from DARPA in the past (read more) with its involvement in neurological research and technology developments. With the “Grand Challenge” introduced in April 2013 by the Obama administration called the BRAIN Initiative (“Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies”), we clearly noticed that half of the dedicated $100 million in funds were to be delegated to future work out of DARPA. Now, months later, the military research branch has finally released two open calls for grant applications to spread around some of these monies to more organizations. 

DARPA-SUBNET_1The first program call is for a project called SUBNETS (“Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies”), which is searching for new technologies that will allow near real-time quantitative measurements of brain activity to then control implanted neural stimulation devices. Out of context, this might sound like an attempt at developing controllable cyborgs, but the focus of this specific proposal is to create a health care advancement that will support the recovery and repair of U.S. service members who have experienced neurological injuries and neuropsychological illness from war-time activities. According to the proposal, ten percent of veterans today are receiving mental health care or substance abuse counseling from the VA. With implantable devices controlled by real-time recording and analysis as proposed by SUBNETS, neuropsychiatry will take a major leap beyond lying on the couch and talking it out with a trained professional with a notepad. 

The second call from DARPA is called RAM (“Restoring Active Memory”) and continues in the vein of supporting veterans with brain injuries. Here, the goal is to develop innovative neurotechnologies that utilize an understanding of the neural encoding of memories — something that is not yet even remotely understood — to recover memory after brain injury. The anticipation is to have an implantable device that clicks on to recover the lost memories. 

RAM seems to carry a rather far-reaching goal that could only be successful with a complete understanding of the structural and functional neural correlations of a human being’s memory. The added difficulty is that if it is assumed that memories are directly encoded in the specific architecture of neuron connections and the resulting functional relationships, then a traumatic brain injury could be defined as an event that directly destroys these connections. So to recover lost memories, one might expect that a digital “brain dump” would be necessary to be stored (securely in the cloud?) before a soldier heads off to battle. 

With both the SUBNETS and RAM programs, exciting new technologies and advancements might be possible. However, in the descriptions above there are a plethora of ethical, security, and privacy issues left unmentioned only for the reader to speculate upon. To address these sorts of issues that always exist on the leading edge of technological developments, DARPA has also established an Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Panel composed of academics, medical ethicists, clinicians, and researchers to advise and guide the new programs as well as provide some form of independent oversight during their progress.


 

DARPA Aims to Rebuild BrainsScience 29 November 2013 Vol. 342 no. 6162 pp. 1029-1030 

 

 

Adopting a New Standard for Curation Attribution

One of the primary efforts at Dynamic Patterns Research is bringing to our readers interesting information and articles related to citizen science and amateur research through our DPR Journal as well as the latest in neurotechnology with Neuron News. These journals are considered to be news and original commentary logs, but are largely based on the curation of content from other sources.

Direct attribution is always provided in articles published by DPR either via direct linking to an article or by other descriptive hyperlink reference to an individual, organization, or program. Formal attribution systems for literary and scientific works in publications already exist, but there has been no clear, universal method to recognize and reference source materials of published articles (either professional or amateur) that are based on “discovery through the web.”

Curator's Code Logo

One of today’s top web curators, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, recently helped to develop a new system to make attribution consistent and codified, while respecting those who expand upon others’ creative and intellectual work. This simple “Curator’s Code” system features two Unicode symbols to represent the class of attribution used by authors. The sideways ‘s’ symbol, , or “via” corresponds to a direct re-posting or reference to content discovered through another source and shared with an audience with minimal modification or amplification. The second symbol, a curving arrow, , or “hat tip” represents an indirect discovery from another source of an idea, but with significant elaboration when shared with an audience.

Dynamic Patterns Research will begin implementing this new system for curation attribution in future published articles as we strongly believe clear reference to the creative and intellectual efforts of others must be obvious in our published writings. However, the additional commentary, information, and original content provided by DPR should also be separated in a similarly clear and obvious way, and the Curator’s Code system simultaneously offers these needs in a straightforward way.

Learn more about the Curator’s Code and let us know what you think about the new system in the comments below.

 

Last updated April 5, 2020