Transactions on Medical Electronics v15 n3 July-September 1971, pp.
An Invasive Approach to High-Bandwidth
Dexter Wyckoffprincipal scientist, Mimecom Seldon
Research Center, Sebastopol , California
Department of Psychology, University of California at San Francisco
Wrightcomputer systems engineer, Project One, Berkeley,
ABSTRACT In previous
years one of the authors (Wyckoff) reported on the development of synthetic
neurotransmitter analogs that, administered intravenously, enhanced certain
mental functions, including memory formation and recall, and ability to maintain
attention for extended periods.
Further efforts in that direction yeilded diminishing returns. In an offshoot
of this work, the authors investigated the possibility of augmenting mental
function by physically linking brain structures to external computer hardware.
After locating a suitable neural connection site (the mammalian corpus callosum)
we developed hardware and software for the task. This paper describes our
first unambiguously successful results, obtained in a juvenile squirrel monkey,
which was able, in consequence,
to play chess and to read at the level of a schoolchild, activities far outside
of its normal competence.
Our approach generalizes straightforwardly
to human augmentation, and points to the additional possibility of gradually migrating
memories, skills and personality encoded in fragile and bounded neural
hardware to faster, more capacious and communicative, and less mortal, external
digital machinery--thus preserving and expanding the essential functional of a
mind, even as the nervous system
in which it arose was lost. A mind and personality, as an information-bearing
pattern, might thus be freed from the limitations and risks of a particular physical
body, to travel over information channels and through the ether, to reside
in alternative physical hosts.
human central nervous systems (CNS) and electronic computation and communication
devices have been linked via the bodily senses and musculature--an approach
requiring only simple technology
and incurring little medical risk. Unfortunately this straightforward
avenue has very low information bandwidth: effectively a few kilohertz of sensory
information (primarily vision) into the CNS, and a mere one tenth of that
figure out. Much higher transfer rates are observed within the CNS. In particular,
the corpus callosum connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres
with 500 million fibers in the human. Each fiber signals on average at
about ten hertz, for an aggregate
rate of several gigahertz: about one million times the bandwidth of the senses.
The corpus callosum connects to all major cerebral areas, offering a spectacular
opportunity for electronic interaction. The primary challenges are the
invasive nature and massive scale of any comprehensive link. In other publications
we have described the design of "neural combs" which can be inserted non-destructively
into nerve bundles to make contact with a large fraction of the
fibers: they are scaled up relatives
of cochlear implants used in nerve-deafness surgery. This paper describes
experiments in which neural combs were implanted into the callosa of primates,
and connected to a computers running adaptive algorithms that modeled the measured
neural traffic and correlated it with sensory, motor and cognitive states,
and later impressed external information on this flow.
The animals (squirrel
monkeys) used in the experiments have a CNS size about one two hundredth
that of a human, with a corpus
callosum of less than ten thousand fibers, greatly simplifying both the surgical
and computational aspects of the work. In each experiment a neural comb with
two thousand microfiber tines at ten micron separation, each carrying along
its length one hundred separate connection rings, was carefully worked between
the axons in the callosum of the experimental animal. After a week to heal surgical
trauma, a cable bundle from the comb to a PDP-10 ten teraops multiprocessor
was activated, and signals from
the tines were processed by a factor-analysis program. Once a rough relational
map had been obtained, a functional map was constructed by presenting the
animal with controlled sensory stimuli, and inducing it to perform previously trained
motor tasks, while correlating comb activity. The functional map was further
refined by processing the responses to synthesized sensations introduced
via the comb. After several days of stimulation and analysis, the PDP-10 had a
sufficiently good model of the
callosal traffic that we were able to elicit very complex and specific behavior,
including some that seem quite beyond the capacities of the unaugmented animals.
most notable results were obtained with animal number three (#3),
out of five subjects. In one demonstration, we interfaced #3 to the Greenblatt
chess program, supplied with the PDP-10 software. We began by fast-training
#3 to discriminate individual chess pieces we presented. Fast-training is similar
to conventional operant conditioning,
but greatly accelerated because the responses we seek and the intense
rewards we generate involve fast, unambiguous, callosal signals, rather than
clumsy physical acts. We then configured the PDP-10 to reward the animal (by
generating callosal stimuli similar to those occurring naturally when tasty fruit
is seen) when it scanned the chess board each time its turn to move arose.
During the scan, the callosal recognition and location signals for the various
chess pieces are translated,
by a program module we wrote, into a chessboard configuration, which is fed to
the chess program, which returns a suitable move. Our program then stimulates
#3's food grasping behavior, directed at the piece to be moved: in consequence,
the animal avidly grasps it. Next, the target square is singled out for attention,
causing the piece to be moved there. The attractiveness of the piece is
then reduced and the animal loses interest, and releases it. It took several
intense weeks of effort to "debug"
this program. Among the problems we encountered were #3's inattention to
other pieces on the board: in early tries it would often incidentally upset them
when reaching for the piece to be moved. We now activate an aversion response
we had noticed in the mapping process: as best we can determine, #3 now feels
about a chess move as it would feel about a luscious fruit that must be gingerly
teased out of a thorn bush. Another problem was the animal's wandering interest
as it waited for its opponent
to move. We solved this by a mild invocation of its response to certain predators.
It now quietly but alertly, somewhat apprehensively, awaits the move,
drawing no attention to itself.
Another demonstration gave #3 more autonomy.
We fast-trained the animal to recognize individual letters of the alphabet,
and to scan strings of such letters it encountered. The letter strings were
fed to a dictionary look up program, whose output was then translated into appropriate
recognition signals for
the objects, events and actions in the text. #3 soon learned to respond the
labels of containers, and to choose those whose contents were of interest (usually
culinary). When the program is running, #3 also shows an interest in books,
and registers appropriate reactions such as appetite, excitement, fear, lust
and so on appropriate to the stories it reads. Stories about food and outdoor
adventures seem to be preferred: curious for an animal that was raised in an
indoor breeding colony, and has
spent the last five years in small laboratory cages.
In future work we
plan to expand the behavioral latitude available to our animal subjects while
executing programmed tasks, by writing richer programs more responsive to the
animal's internal imperatives, and also by providing means for the animal to invoke
major programs on its own initiative. These extensions are, of course, interesting
in the context of future applications to human interface.
EMAIL text archive, Kyoto University
datacenter, December 2010
Date:Tuesday, 9 February 1999,
To:Chickie Levitt <email@example.com>
musings yesterday on a permanent broadband mental
link to the worldnet were very thought-provoking. I think you are right, it
would allow the human mind to
bootstrap itself in an effective way into an entirely new, and much larger, arena
of possibilities. In the early stages the effect would be of an expanded mind,
with the contents of the world libraries as accessible as one's own memories,
and the computational capacities of the world's computers as available as one's
own skills. As integration proceeded, one might slowly download one's entire
personality into the net, being thus freed from all limitations of the body.
It is hard, from our present standpoint,
to even imagine what might be seen and reached from that perspective.
you any ideas on how to proceed? There was an article yesterday
article in Comp.Par on Andrew Systems' Crystal 3. It is probably powerful and
small enough to serve as a data compressor for a link: only 1/20 cubic meter for
10 TeraOps: Perhaps one could carry it in a backpack for a perpetual connection?
9 February 1999, 8:16
To:Ushio Kawabata <firstname.lastname@example.org>
it would still give a pain to carry your brain. A backpack compressor
might offer higher bandwidth to the net, but would be much less convenient than
a straightforward Eye-glass optic nerve interface (and considerably more risky).
I've been thinking of a way around having to put all the processing in electronics,
and still get higher
overall bandwidth in a vastly more compact form. *If* we could get the neural
connections to cooperate----to crossbar and compress the calloflow----we could save
99% of the computation and external communication, making callosum interface
practical---- with data rate low enough for a sat-cell relay. So then, you would
have to carry around only a standard multiplexer and sat-cell transceiver. The
hard parts of the operation can be distributed anywhere over the worldnet!
9 February 1999, 8:18 UT
To:Chickie Levitt <email@example.com>
would be artful
- a few chips at your end, giving access to the world's data and processing
power. Not only images and sounds, as with Eye-glasses, but, with callosum access,
feelings, motor sensations and more abstract mental concepts, since the
connection is to your cortical
areas for those functions. One could be in touch with almost anything in the web
with an intimacy now possible only with one's own thoughts! (on the other hand,
there is danger from useless net blabber all day long: like mental tunes that
will not cease).
Small problem: The crux of your suggestion is to
build biological neural structures to do most of the job we have been doing in
electronics. How does one persuade the neurons to, so conveniently, arrange themselves
to compress your callosum
flow for satellite transmission?
9 February 1999, 8:19 UT
To:Ushio Kawabata <firstname.lastname@example.org>
that's the hard part
all right. I have been reading in sci.bio.research about gene hacking by the
nerve repair crowd at Hopkins. They've managed to develop viral vectors that
infect neurons and bugger their
genetic initiator sequences so neural stem cells begin differentiating in mid
growth program of just about any structure they want. They can grow an isolated
callosum! - Though the ends come out tangled, since there's no place for them
to connect to.
Date:Tuesday, 9 February
1999, 8:19 UT
To:Chickie Levitt <email@example.com>
must be many difficulties there. My friend Toshi Okada, who does gene-engineering
at Tskuba, tells me that in embryology, almost half the information
required to properly grow cell structures comes from the previously grown structure:
expressing the DNA code alone is not sufficient to build working assemblies
in most instances. Though perhaps additional coding could be added to substitute
for insufficient external framework? That would be rather like building
scaffolding in preparation for
Date:Tuesday, 9 February
1999, 8:20 UT
To:Ushio Kawabata <firstname.lastname@example.org>
done some of that, but still get
some distortion. It gets better if the growth is started in the generally right
kind of preexisting tissue
I'm thinking of growing a couple of square centimeters
of cortical tissue with
callosal fibers that seek out and merge with an existing callosum. The DNA
hackery would be encoded into an RNA virus deposited on the same electronic chip
that contains the digital data interface. The chip would have chemical target
sites for one end of the new nerve growth, and would be powered by body metabolism
via an integrated ATP fuel cell. Implant the chip somewhere on the edge
of the corpus callosum on the brain midline, and the virus will cause the surrounding
brain structure to grow
a biological data-compressing interface between the chip and the callosum.
chip would have to be connected to some kind of external antenna to communicate,
maybe a thin wire through the skull, like a hair.
9 February 1999, 8:20 UT
From:Ushio Kawabata <email@example.com>
interesting proposal! I'll ask
Toshi if you can use some of Tskuba's gene modeling and embryology software
to help you with the design. They've become quite good in the last few years.
will contact you then.
Best wishes - Ushio
MILESTONES IN MENTAL AUGMENTATION(side-bar
to article in New Scientist,
Stepping Out - The Mind Unbounded, February 16, 2010)
Galvani demonstrates a connection
between nerves, muscles and electricity by animating frog legs with electricity
applied to nerves leading to muscles, thus hinting at how the internal workings
of a mind could be coupled
to external artificial devices.
1906Ramon Cajal and
Camillo Golgi receive Nobel Prize for developing nerve staining methods and elucidating
the detailed structure of the cerebrum and cerebellum, so providing a
rough roadmap for later intervention.
invents the electroencephalogram (EEG) for recording electrical activity in the
human brain: a first crude, one-way channel into the functioning of the mind.
Watson and Francis Crick determine the structure of DNA and its mode of replications,
and suggest its role as the control code for biological growth, so laying
the foundation for molecular biology, and eventually the engineering of biological
structures, including neural assemblies for electronic interfaces.
Penfield produces maps of the cortex by means of
electrical probes of its surface during brain surgery--evoking specific memories,
sensations and motor responses
by stimulating specific locations, thus establishing the geographic nature of
mental organization, and incidentally providing the first examples of artificial
interaction with the internal workings of the mind.
Noyce and Jack Kirby invent the integrated circuit, a way of placing
many electronic components on a single piece of crystal, initiating at least
a half century of exponential growth in electronic complexity, the creation of
mind-like machines, and eventually
the merger of biological and artificial minds.
Rosenblatt develops and reports on learning experiments with the Perceptron,
an artificial neural net: a way of organizing electronic components in a structure
that anatomically and functionally matches the organization of biological
1967George Brindley and William Lewin implant
an electrode array into the visual cortex of a congenitally blind subject, and
generate visual phosphenes (spots)
by camera-controlled computer activation of this array, restoring some sight
to a nerve-blind volunteer, and providing an early major demonstration of a
computer-nervous system symbiosis.
and Rajiv Kamar demonstrate the neural comb, a low-noise, high-bandwidth external
channel to the nervous system, providing for the first time potentially total
external access to higher mental functions.
Kamar and Fred Wright use a
neural comb with a PDP-10 computer to enable a squirrel monkey to play chess and
to read, an early example of mental augmentation by electronic means.
House and Janet Urban install a cochlear implant driven
by an external computer, restoring partial hearing to a nerve-deaf patient,
and creating a successful medical niche for electronic substitution of lost
1982William DeVries installs first permanent
artificial heart implanted
in a human subject, causing a major shift in the public perception of the
relation of "natural" biological functions to "artificial" mechanical devices.
Josephine Bogart and Paul Vogels install a neural
comb in the corpus callosum of an epileptic patient, and program an external computer
to interrupt seizures: the first human application of a neural comb.
Meade develops an artificial retina, integrating
tens of thousands of artificial
neurons on an integrated circuit, developing some of the analog techniques used
in the electronic portions of future "neurochips."
Kawabata develops a successful predictive model of human cortical behavior
building on Edelman's "neural darwinism" formulation, an essential step in
providing the engineering environment used to design the neural structures grown
by neurochip viruses.
1997Ushio Kawabata and Chickie
Levitt develop an information-efficient
method of deriving functional neural anatomy from dense observations
of nerve signals, so laying the foundation for the mental mapping process used
to adapt a neurochip to its host.
2000Chickie Levitt and
Toshi Okada develop a genetic design for a neural interface between the human
callosum and a data transmission integrated circuit. This design is encoded into
RNA viruses which are part of neurochip implants, and act by infecting nearby
neural tissue, so causing the
growth of connective and data-compressing neuron structures that connect the
electronic portion of the neurochip with the brain.
Levitt combines previous electronic, genetic and neural innovations to
produce the first complete, functional, self-connecting neurochip.
first experiment with neurochips is partial success. A neurochip-augmented
chimpanzee demonstrates an equivalent human IQ of 190 for two
months, before dying of a brain