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Extracting Video from Cat Brains

By mindpixel in News
Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 12:37:08 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

`The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games,' said the voice-over, `in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks.'

William Gibson, Neuromancer - 1984

It was still very much a 300 baud universe when I jacked into Gibson's future for the first time. In 1984 there were very few systems I could connect to with the surplus CAE acoustic modem I had access to, and almost all of them were a forbidden long distance telephone call away. My borrowed deck suffered from sensory deprivation and just like a person, it hallucinated. It hallucinated games.

The games my best friend Vic Spicer and I made were even more primitive than the ones in the arcade that Gibson places at the foundation of the matrix. They ran at 1.77 MHz on a screen with a resolution of a mere 128 by 48 pixels and no idea what color was. The lack of speed, resolution and color were not important to me. What was important was that I was in full control of an entirely different reality that was embedded within our own. I spent nearly all of my free time hacking pixels into lowres TRS-80 approximations of the hires characters and vehicles that populated the books, movies and arcades of my youth. I was a pixel God, able to control human perception in a fundamental, yet disconnected way. It was a powerful feeling to have at a time when few adults knew what a pixel was, but I longed for a direct connection. I wanted to draw pixels not on a screen, but directly in mind; I wanted to be a Neuromancer. So I think, did Garrett B. Stanley.

Dr. Stanley is Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. He is the ultimate voyeur. He jacks into brains and extracts video.

Using cats selected for their sharp vision, in 1999 Garret Stanley and his team recorded signals from a total of 177 cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus - a part of the brain's thalamus [the thalamus integrates all of the brains sensory input and forms the base of the seven-layered thalamocortical loop with the six layered neocortex] - as they played 16 second digitized (64 by 64 pixels) movies of indoor and outdoor scenes. Using simple mathematical filters, the Stanley and his buddies decoded the signals to generate movies of what the cats actually saw. Though the reconstructed movies lacked color and resolution and could not be recorded in real-time [the experimenters could only record from 10 neurons at a time and thus had to make several different recording runs, showing the same video] they turned out to be amazingly faithful to the original.

Though this study is six years old, it is highly underpublicized, but extremely important which is why I am writing about it again now. It was published in the September 15, 1999 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience and was the first demonstration that spatiotemporal natural scenes can be reconstructed from the ensemble responses of visual neurons. It put us firmly in Gibson's future.

Now, we know what raw experience looks like inside the brain of another being, and thus entire philosophies of mind that were premised on internal experience forever being private, have been rendered obsolete. I have no doubt that it won't be long before these interfaces are made with human subjects with the frequency and expense of a complex tattoo. Those interfaces will also be bi-directional - giving us the ability to augment reality, replace it, or simply to record our nightly dreams to share with others. It won't be long before our preferred interface with cyberspace will be through mindjacks.

[You can see some of the images on Dr. Stanley's vision page, or slightly better versions on my own blog]


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Garrett B. Stanley
o vision page
o blog
o Also by mindpixel

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Extracting Video from Cat Brains | 122 comments (71 topical, 51 editorial, 0 hidden)
Very cool. (2.60 / 5) (#1)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 11:33:09 AM EST

My cat's video would have had a constant shot of my bleeding hands and feet, and her blood-red claws.


Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.

A little bit of hyperbole. (2.25 / 4) (#5)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 12:03:33 PM EST

These are very cool and useful experiments, but it's "just" capturing data more or less one step further back from the optic nerve. It's raw data, not raw experience - we still don't have a good understanding of what happens to that data later on in the chain, and the bulk of "private experience" still remains private.

oh please. (2.50 / 4) (#6)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 12:13:51 PM EST

Just capturing data a little further back?

Are you insane?

This is the first time the data has been captured and decoded, rendering massive tracts of the philosophy of mind obsolete, and you say, just capturing data a little further back?

And by the way, in terms of geometry, it is as far back as possible, at the very core of the brain.

You obviously can recognize a milestone in human history.

[ Parent ]

Anatomy is not physiology (3.00 / 5) (#9)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:00:58 PM EST

Sure, this is close to the geometric center of the brain, but it is still quite raw data, long before any complex cortical processing has been done on the image. IIRC, the original images were primarily edge and motion detections, as would be expected from raw data coming from the retina. This was really "another step back" (although I wouldn't call it "just" another step back). There are further steps. What about cortical processing? What about crossing to other sensory apparatus? Memory influx & efflux?

The work was quite significant, and it got a lot of attention at the time. In '99 my wife was working in neuro, and this paper was the talk of the department. It was decoding signaling, it was very impressive. It got a lot of attention, and it deserved it.

However, I fail to see why you would bring it up. It pokes a hole in the model you propose.

This suggests that the thalamus (or at least the LGN) can act independently of the cortex. And the fact that it already carried the edge and motion exaggerations from the retina suggests that the processing is cumulative. The fact that it contained only this information, and none of the classical processing steps from the visual cortex further undermines the proposal. Furthermore, it emphesizes another layer of processing, the retina, in visual perception. Which brings me to a question:

What leads you to the hypothesis that there are exactly seven layers of processing? You have demonstrated that there are potentially at least seven, but what anatomical or physiological evidence leads you to the idea that there are exactly seven?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

But seven is such a pretty number :( /nt (none / 0) (#11)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:21:15 PM EST

[ Parent ]
raw info. (none / 1) (#13)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:44:20 PM EST

It actually confirms my thinking. The dat never becomes unraw. It is always raw. The sensory dimension of the seven sphere stays sensory, always. Even when it "comes back" from the neocortex.

The whole thing - thalamocortical loop - is, I think - just a big fat space. There is no processing going on at all. It is just geometric pattern placement in 7d.

[ Parent ]

Processing (none / 0) (#14)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:56:26 PM EST

But there is processing going on, it is evident in the images. Edges and motion are enhanced as predicted. You can see edges in the neural extracted pictures more easily.

This may be due to a misunderstanding. I am talking about processing in the neurophysiological sense. If when you say "There is no processing going on at all", you are referring to classical cortical and pathway processing, you are going to have a tough row to hoe. That flies in the face of decades of solid pathway work.

If there is no processing, then what the hell are all the connections for? Or are you saying this whole "7d space" is the processing?

Again, what evidence do you have that there are exactly 7 dimensions? You seem to be ignoring a lot of structures, pathways, and signals. Intercolumnar connections, excitatory, inhibitory, and metabotropic signals, intercortical tracts, etc.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

yes. (none / 1) (#15)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:02:26 PM EST

I am saying that the placement of a point on the 7d hypersurface is all the processing there ever is. Everything is relative. Geometric.

[ Parent ]
And the other questions....? (none / 1) (#17)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:13:43 PM EST

That's a lot different from saying that there is no processing. Raw or minimally processed signals are maintained and influence each other to form some kind of gestalt. That's not really a new idea. I remember seeing it in intro to neuro courses quite a ways back. Hell, that idea was presented as dogma in my PSYC 101 class back in college, and that was fifteen years ago.

But what about the other questions? (1) How do you know there are exactly 7 layers? and (2) How do you account for the extant processing seen in the images from the LGN?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

other questions (none / 1) (#20)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:21:31 PM EST

There are seven layers by scientific consensus orgabized as they would be if they were a 7sphere projected into 4d. As for LGN processing, it was subsumed by my answer about geometric processing. There appears to be processing in the LGN because you are looking at it in 4d, in 7d it is static.

[ Parent ]
OK (none / 1) (#22)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:34:42 PM EST

You're just blowing me off with jargon. And no, there is no "scientific consensus" about seven layers, as stated by you in your kickoff story on this topic. You state that you came up with the idea of this 7d space. That leaves it to you to demonstrate it exists as a function and has a presence in structure.

I listed several other candidates for layers of processing and structure in my above post. Please discount them systematically.

And the data just *looks* like it is because of the reader's limited knowledge? My whole point was that that processing is done by a structure outside of your seven dimensions. The data is not raw.

I have an open mind, I am a scientist, and I have been trying to understand what you are talking about. But the more I understand what you are saying, the more holes I see in the theory, and I don't even see you trying to address them. Until you do, I grow increasingly inclined to discount your theory.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

listen man (none / 1) (#28)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:13:50 PM EST

I am not going to debate my theory with you in here. This is about cat brains and the thalamus. My knowledge of the brain comes from predictions. You can take it or leave it.

[ Parent ]
If that's what you want (3.00 / 3) (#31)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:21:23 PM EST

If you don't wish to discuss the merits of your ideas, then don't. I like talking about projects and ideas, it's why I became a scientist. As long as you show a willingness to discuss it by responding, I will continue to discuss it, because I enjoy it.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

I like it as well (none / 1) (#41)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 04:06:59 PM EST

but I think were are detracting from the story at hand and the whole thing is turning political because of who I am. Had I posted wil another id I am certain it would be FP already.

So, there are comment sections on my blog. Go there if you want to take this further.

[ Parent ]

I was unaware (3.00 / 4) (#43)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 04:26:31 PM EST

that K5 was so structured ;)

Divergent discussions crop up all over the place. A politics story on the failire of the '04 Dean campaign can evolve into a discussion of the merits of AMD versus Intel processors.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

The brain is like a surface... (none / 0) (#21)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:30:45 PM EST

For a similar point of viewto mine, I will quote Karl Friston:

"The brain is like a surface, its circuts drawn tight in a certain state of tension. You toss in a pebble - that´s your sensory input - and you immediately get ripples of activity. Sure the patterns say something about the way the pebble hit the surface, but they are mixed with the lingering patterns of earlier pebbles of input. And then everything begins echoing off the sides of the pond. The overall shape of the system has an effect on the patterns you see. Nothing is being calculated. The response of the system evolves organically. Or to use the proper term, dynamically."

[ Parent ]

Like I said (none / 0) (#25)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:40:47 PM EST

That is nothing new. It is an old concept. It is taught to freshman biochemistry students as part of the curriculum of nonmajor psychology courses. It is the foundation of pathway modeling in the brain. It is fun to think about when stoned.

Your addition to this model is this concept of a seven layer space that is the processing, and that is precisely what I am challenging here. How do you know there are exactly seven layers to the space? If you do not know this, how do you propose to test this hypothesis?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Remember Neanderthal (none / 0) (#27)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 02:58:14 PM EST

I don't KNOW. It is a theory. But assuming it does allows me to go from a model, to the brain, [which  Donald Hebb did before and it took 40 years to confirm] And to make predictions about brain evolution and function.

Specifically, my 7d model, which comes from my Mindpixel data, told me I should find a 7 layered loop in the brain and that it should keep its sensory data raw in the base dimension. Found one and it does what I expected it to do. You can argue about its existance and function, but I would not bother. The histology and function is pretty agreed on. It also predicted that there should be a progression of lamination through evolution. Bats. Ceteaceans. Check. And most importantly, there should be some fossil evidence of a very late evolutionary trial of a hominid with a slighly larger brain as for this really to be hypersurface maximization, we need a trial with an 8 layer system to allow the evolutionary feedback to kick in.

No theory has ever predicted that there should be an hominid with slightly bigger brains than ours. The fact that Neanderthal has a slightly larger brain than us, is a very strong clue that hypersurface maximization is going on and hence that the primary structure of the brain is 7d.

[ Parent ]

Remember sapiens (none / 0) (#29)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:16:39 PM EST

At this point, it's not a theory. It's not even a model, it's barely a hypothesis. It's a hypothesis with no aims; it's an idea that you are pitching in all too certain and passionate terms.

The data you have discussed thus far suggests that there is a processing structure with no less than seven dimensions in the brain. It does not suggest that there is a seven layer processing structure in the brain.

There is a very important distinction there, and if you fail to recognize it, it will bite you in the ass. It is a gaping hole in the theory. You may currently be looking at an eight layer structure, a nine layer structure, or a 42 layer structure, you don't know and more importantly, you haven't looked.

I have been able to propose a few candidates for that eighth layer, and I don't even work in the brain. A good neuro guy could very likely come up with half a dozen more candidates. The candidate "intracortical tracts" actually encompasses more candidates than I could list.

If any of those proves to be real and part of the structure, then your theory is out the provebial window.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

yes. (none / 0) (#30)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:21:23 PM EST

I agree. So let the search for th eigth layer begin.

[ Parent ]
Let the disproving begin (none / 0) (#32)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:23:09 PM EST

The ball is in your court....what about the proposed processing layers? How will you address that?

Obviously, I'm not asking for data, but what kind of experiments would discount them?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

What other candidates (none / 0) (#40)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 04:03:44 PM EST

I see mention only of the LGN.

[ Parent ]
The stuff I referred to (none / 0) (#44)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 04:28:42 PM EST

Intracolumnar signaling in the cortex, processing at the retina or other peripheral interacting sites, intracortical tracts (long ones, as opposed to short range intercolumnar interactions), or glial/neuronal interactions.

These all do engage in cortical and noncortical processing, so they are definately candidates. It would be easy to discount distal sites like the retina, but columnar and glial interactions would be difficult to toss out.

The LGN is part of the thalamus anyway, so it's included in your seven as is.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Intracolumnar signaling/retina (none / 0) (#46)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 04:50:56 PM EST

See Adrian Robert on cortical lamination referenced on my blog, and you will see that there are on average 7-9 interconnections locally in the cortex. As well, the retina is also seven layered. Even Gaba appers to be 7d. Hell, even the heart, the biggest em field generator in the body is also seven layered. So I see all these components as contributing to the same 7d electromagnetic field.

And agian, this is not the appropriate place for this discussion. Move it off site, please.

[ Parent ]

No (3.00 / 5) (#51)
by Sgt York on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 06:43:41 PM EST

I don't really care to post in your blog. If you want to stop the discussion, then do so. This is a discussion site, and people (like me) are going to discuss if you post here. If you don't like it, don't post or don't reply. Also, please don't take it personally. I am not attacking or ridiculing you, I am discussing your idea.

I don't know the name Adrian Robert, and I couldn't find anything with a cursory Pubmed search, nor was it obvious on your blog. Link, please.

It does not matter how many examples of seven that are used elsewhere in the body. That does not prove your point. To prove your point, you must present and disprove alternate theories, and demonstrate that your model is the one that best fits the data. In this specific instance, you have to discount other connections. The key to your whole proposal is that there are seven layers. The rest of what you say is not new. You even say that "there is an average of 7-9 connections"; this is not seven layers, it is 7, 8, or 9 on average.

And Gaba? Are you referring to the neurotransmitter GABA? How is that 7d?

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

and another thing... (none / 0) (#7)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 12:23:01 PM EST

The thalamus is the base of the thalamocortical loop. Think about it a bit. Where do you think you sensory imagination is projected???

What do you think would happen if for example the images were docoded from a sleeping cat? Yes, I know it is impossible with this methodology, I know I talk to the experimenter about exactly this a number of years ago, but in principle, if you can access and decode the thalamic image, you have access to everything, objective and subjective.

[ Parent ]

You can say "in principle" all you like, (none / 0) (#10)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:18:18 PM EST

but that hardly proves that the thalamus contains all subjective experience. All sensory data could go through the thalamus and it still wouldn't prove anything about subjective experience, because we already know that humans are not consious or aware of everything that is captured by their senses. Just because you can reconstruct video from some point in the brain does not prove that the person or cat is "aware" of exactly what you see, nor does it mean that recalled memories or abstract visualization can be reconstructed at the thalamus.

[ Parent ]
Everything is in the thalamus. (none / 0) (#12)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 01:39:25 PM EST

Everything you can sense [except olfaction which has its own direct input to the neocortex], independednt of the origin - outside or inside your head - conscious or unconscious, passes through the thalamus. The thalamus is the very center of your being. It is the base of the loop that all experience is built from.

The Thalamic Reticular Nucleus is our best candidate for the region of the brain that determines what becomes consciousness and what does not. It is thought that it acts as a kind of gate to and from the neurocortex. I think of it of more a a lense or map, but that's just me.

[ Parent ]

except olfaction (none / 0) (#119)
by Neubrain on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 06:09:11 PM EST

"Everything you can sense [except olfaction which has its own direct input to the neocortex], independednt of the origin - outside or inside your head - conscious or unconscious, passes through the thalamus." except olfaction

It's All a State of Mind

[ Parent ]
a whole new voyeurism (none / 0) (#122)
by hiervision on Sun Oct 29, 2006 at 01:00:07 AM EST

god if this get any further along which if this 6 years ago--it is-- then i'm going to start closing my eyes when i'm 'with' my girlfriend!


[ Parent ]

Link to the original paper (2.83 / 6) (#35)
by FattMattP on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 03:28:32 PM EST

Here's a link to the original paper in case anyone is interested in reading it.

awesome (none / 1) (#49)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 06:07:29 PM EST

when do i get my cat webcam?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

I have a video of mi cat licking its balls, (1.50 / 2) (#54)
by V on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 07:15:34 PM EST

so what's your point?

What my fans are saying:
"That, and the fact that V is a total, utter scumbag." VZAMaZ.
"well look up little troll" cts.
"I think you're a worthless little cuntmonkey but you made me lol, so I sigged you." re
"goodness gracious you're an idiot" mariahkillschickens

My point is POV. (none / 0) (#55)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 07:46:31 PM EST

There is a world of difference between a vieo of a cat and a video of what a cat is seeing.

[ Parent ]
What if the cat is seeing a cat? (3.00 / 3) (#57)
by catastrophe on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 07:58:13 PM EST

[ Parent ]
rofl. (3.00 / 3) (#72)
by Linux or FreeBSD on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 02:34:48 AM EST

just rofl. i need sleep now.

[ Parent ]
Infinite Cats...!? (none / 0) (#87)
by Pnarp on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 01:05:20 PM EST

What if the cat is seeing a picture of a cat seeing a picture of a cat seeing a picture of a ...

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[ Parent ]
Wouldn't it be more cost effective... (none / 0) (#77)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 09:10:57 AM EST

To teach the cat to wear a special catcam helmet? With modern tech, it would be so light, I doubt that it would be a burden. Even if it were, we could start out with bigger cats, like tigers.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
As someone who's worked in this field (3.00 / 7) (#59)
by Czyl on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 08:02:20 PM EST

Thanks for reminding me about this study.

I remember in 2001 that a student in my seminar on biology, neuroscience, and free will brought up this exact study to the professor, microbiology founder Gunther Stent, and he didn't believe that it was possible that it had ever been done.  The fact that they were able to do this is surprising, and very cool.

At the same time, I don't agree with your remark in the conclusion that we're seeing the raw experience of the animal directly.  What was done was to establish a mathematical correlation of elements of neuron activity to motion in the visual field.  These patterns were then used to reconstruct motion in the visual field.

This doesn't mean we have access to the -subjective- experience of the animal as it sees what we put in front of it.  We're simply using the data to reconstruct the motion that we know is going on in front of it.  There may be more complex activity that's going on at a higher level than the small groups of neurons measured that isn't accounted for by the study, and getting at subjective experiences based on measuring a tiny sample of neurons - well, that'd be quite a feat!

It's as if we were reading Braille dots by sight instead of touch, translating them into words, and then telling a blind person that our subjective experience of reading Braille is the same as his.  Simply because we're reproducing the same output doesn't mean it's the same experience.

It looks like it's going to be a tough battle for the front page, so if your article doesn't make it, why not rewrite it so it's longer, meatier, and includes a link to the paper?  You could stand to talk about the implications of this study a little more, and there's lots of other work that goes on in this field that's great and might ultimately lead to the kind of cyber-interfaces you're talking about.

I will do just that. Thanks. nt. (none / 0) (#60)
by mindpixel on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 08:20:53 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Progress isn't about technology (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by QuantumG on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 09:14:57 PM EST

The fact that we can do something often has nothing to do with whether we will do something. I think we have all the technology now to invasively wire a cat for sight and sound. With a few years of research we could easily move onto humans. But that's the kicker, someone needs to fund that research and that's what drives progress forward. If people like you and I were serious about our desire for a neuromancer style interface we'd go start a foundation and pour all our money into funding the research to develop and patent the technology to make it happen. But we're not serious, we're enchanted by a fiction and would rather hope that "one day it is possible" than actually make it happen.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
until the end of the world... (none / 0) (#68)
by kpaul on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 12:22:48 AM EST

great sci/fi movie w/william hurt...they have a dream capturing machine in that. it's addictive...

2014 Halloween Costumes

topical comments (none / 0) (#76)
by dimaq on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 08:44:28 AM EST

1st it was a study of visual processing, not perception. Which is why it's not as groundbreaking as you describe and definitely does not obsolete schools of thought.

2nd it was a study of sleeping cats. actually anesthetized. I'm not a surgeon and can't quite tell what that inhaled isofluorene or i.v. whateverelse really do to a brain - I suppose they specifically wanted to switch the cat's brain off - so perhaps it was a study of braindead cats?

thalamus is at the core of brain and consciousness (none / 0) (#80)
by mindpixel on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 11:04:52 AM EST

The thalamus is at the core of brain and consciousness. It is the center of being and not just part of the visual pathway and as such makes no difference if the cat was conscious or unconscious. Read this very nice review of the modern idea of the thalamus from Science and Consciousness Review, also lovely,  which I will quote from:

The thalamus has often been called "The Switchboard of the Brain." As brain scientists have studied it in more detail, they have learned how much more it is than just a switchboard. An updated 21st Century metaphor for the thalamus might be the brain's "Adaptive, Cybernetic, Computing, Selecting, and Switching Center."

[ Parent ]

weak argument (none / 0) (#101)
by dimaq on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 03:41:49 AM EST

you are saying something like this:

"we stuck a microphone in an anthill and because we know that most of ant communication happens where there are most ants, we shall know everything about each ant's private life"

[ Parent ]

No video can be found (none / 0) (#81)
by rpresser on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 11:22:42 AM EST

at the Research: Vision site. And the "my blog" link just 404s.

I was really looking forward to seeing some video...
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty

yes, would be nice (none / 0) (#82)
by mindpixel on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 12:19:58 PM EST

but the video is not public. just frames.

[ Parent ]
Your reply (none / 0) (#105)
by wurp on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 09:10:02 AM EST

completely ignores that the link to YOUR OWN BLOG is 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.

Could you address that, or at least comment on it?

Thanks for the article, although my initial excitement was drastically damped as I realized this is much more like tapping into the optic nerve than any reading of processed visual information.
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

Details (none / 0) (#83)
by foobarian on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 12:32:17 PM EST

It seems pretty obvious that there will be places beyond the retina carrying the sensory signals.  Therefore, the fact that some scientists managed to jack in and decode the signals is not really surprising to me.  

I think the interesting part are the methods used to "connect" to neural pathways.  Did they use microscopic wires?  How did they insert them?  Did they glue them to the correct neuron?  Did they do it by hand, or some precise robotic microarm?  How about the state of the art in artificial retinas?

For the practical purpose of just injecting raw visual input, I don't think the understanding of higher-level data representations in the brain helps as much as optimizing the raw interface.  I.e. I would rather see a higher-resolution input implant than ability to inject squares and triangles at some shape processing layer in the brain.

Raw experience? Too raw, I'd say (Topical repost) (1.66 / 3) (#86)
by OmniCognate on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 12:39:00 PM EST

As far as spying on a person's thoughts is concerned, this is not much better than making a video of what they are looking at. I'm confident our inner thoughts will be private for the foreseeable future.

Disclaimer: IANANeuroscientist.

Presenting images to the retina and making recordings from cells in the LGN (lateral geniculate nucleus) only shows that there is a map of the visual field in the LGN. This is the first of a series of maps at progressively later points in the visual pathway. It's nice to be able to make realtime recordings from it, but its existence is certainly not news.

For those who don't know, the LGN is the first point after the retina in the visual pathway. Retinal neurons project to the LGN where they synapse on neurons which project to primary visual cortex at the back of the brain. Other cells then project from there to other areas of visual cortex. Other sensory pathways also have their first synapses in parts of the thalamus, hence the idea that the thalamus is responsible for integration of sensory input.

At each of the stages of the visual pathway, electrical probing reveals maps of the visual field. Stimuli at different places within the visual field cause electrical activity at corresponding points in the map. Each map has a different layout and responds differently to stimuli in the visual field.

The further along the visual pathway you get, the more complex the relationship between the pattern of electrical activity in the map and the actual stimulus becomes. This appears to indicate that the visual signal is being transformed in various ways at each stage of the visual pathway. At later stages, the signal has been transformed a number of times, so the relationship between the result and the original signal is complex. (Some describe this as progressively higher levels of processing - I prefer to describe it as successive transformations of a signal.)

The LGN is not considered to be just a passive relay. Some transformation of the visual signal takes place there. However, it is the first relay after the retina, so sticking electrodes into it and claiming you are seeing "what raw experience looks like" is going a bit far, in my opinion. It sounds a bit like finding out how to unscrew the lens of a camera and claiming you therefore understand photography.

Even taking realtime recordings from the LGN and all of the later maps, massively impressive though it would be, wouldn't convince me that we understand visual experience. Not until we figure out what those transformations actually are and what they are for will we be able to realistically make that claim.

Making realtime recordings of the first map gets us one step closer to understanding the visual system, but let's not get carried away.

private thoughts... (none / 0) (#88)
by mindpixel on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 01:10:40 PM EST

The whole state of the entire thalamocortical loop, not just the visual portions of it, needs to be considered holistically. When you do that, magic starts to happen. But of course, neuroscience rarely thinks holistically.

[ Parent ]
Ugh. (none / 0) (#108)
by rpresser on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 01:06:22 PM EST

If you really use phrases like "magic starts to happen" in your own private thoughts, I'm no longer interested in them.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
The musky tang of postmodernism. (none / 0) (#114)
by calumny on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 11:18:16 PM EST

Constantly reaffirming your beliefs in jargon does not help to develop your theory.

[ Parent ]
so why then did you do it? nt (none / 1) (#115)
by mindpixel on Thu Jun 23, 2005 at 10:05:53 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Personally (none / 0) (#91)
by I HATE TROLLS on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 01:53:37 PM EST

I don't think you needed to post that comment twice.

[ Parent ]
Do you mean (none / 0) (#93)
by OmniCognate on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 03:46:44 PM EST

the comment was crap, the article is going to be dumped, or both?

Just curious.

[ Parent ]
i think... (none / 0) (#94)
by mindpixel on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 04:03:40 PM EST

he means your posted two substantially similar comments, from his pov.

[ Parent ]
First one accidentally editorial, second topical (none / 0) (#95)
by OmniCognate on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 04:18:08 PM EST

as the title says. I don't know what the etiquette is in these cases.

I have never intentionally made an editorial comment on k5, but since editorial is the default setting when the article's in the queue I often fail to set it to topical. This means that if and when the article gets posted my comment gets hidden from users with default view settings.

I made the same mistake in forgotten's article, but either Rusty or the mods were kind enough to change the comment to topical. Perhaps they'll do the same here and get rid of the editorial one.

Personally, I think a user preferences feature to set the default comment type when the article is in the queue would be nice.

I'll try not to make the same blunder yet again.

[ Parent ]
appendix-like artifact (none / 0) (#96)
by mindpixel on Tue Jun 21, 2005 at 05:35:00 PM EST

I think editoral vs topical are essentially ignored. I know I ignore them. They don't help or hinder anything apparently. An appendix-like artifact of scoop's youth I think. Should just be cut off.

[ Parent ]
waahh (2.33 / 3) (#104)
by fhotg on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 05:52:56 AM EST

Some uninformative blah mentioning a 6 year old paper without even linking to it makes section News.

WTF ???
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

RTFA (none / 0) (#106)
by electrichamster on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 11:11:10 AM EST

If you read the referenced blog, you'd find a link to the article there.

As you're so lazy, here it is for you: http://people.deas.harvard.edu/~gstanley/articles/stanley_dan_1999.pdf

[ Parent ]
thanks (none / 0) (#107)
by fhotg on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 12:57:29 PM EST

in the name of those who are actually interested in that paper.
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
The Right Side of the Soul (none / 1) (#109)
by mindpixel on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 03:28:16 PM EST

Here's what the thalamus looks like in a monkey [from brainmaps.org]

thanks for the traffic (none / 0) (#110)
by Neubrain on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 06:04:07 PM EST

Site admins of fledgling sites are particularly cognizant of little blips in visitor traffic http://BrainMaps.org is a new site, just a few weeks old, but it is my hope that visitors will find it useful and even aesthetic. Feedback would be much appreciated. -Shawn

It's All a State of Mind

[ Parent ]
I certainly found it cool! (none / 0) (#112)
by mindpixel on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 07:13:47 PM EST

Especially when I searched for thalamus and found it listed as the 'right side of the soul'!

Keep up the good work!

[ Parent ]

thanks mindpixel (none / 0) (#120)
by Neubrain on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 06:14:32 PM EST

thanks mindpixel. Likewise, I found your mindpixel site interesting though I had some problem creating an account (said it would email me my account info but never did). I should have some very high resolution images up at BrainMaps soon, possibly later today. A preview can be found at http://brainmaps.org/index.php?file=HBP/Monkey/highres/845rh4-levels/

It's All a State of Mind

[ Parent ]
Atari (none / 0) (#113)
by 3454234 on Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 11:01:56 PM EST

The games my best friend Vic Spicer and I made were even more primitive than the ones in the arcade that Gibson places at the foundation of the matrix

broken link to blog (none / 0) (#116)
by Fuzzwah on Thu Jun 23, 2005 at 11:53:19 PM EST


Will take you to the blog post which contains the images.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

link is fixed. thanks for catching that. nt (none / 0) (#117)
by mindpixel on Fri Jun 24, 2005 at 04:12:23 PM EST

[ Parent ]
olfaction bypasses thalamus (none / 0) (#118)
by Neubrain on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 06:07:45 PM EST

A note: olfactory information bypasses the thalamus (or more precisely, reaches olfactory cortex without having to pass through thalamus). Also, the seventh layer of isocortex is not typically regarded as the thalamus, but is more commonly attributed to the claustrum, which directly underlies insular cortex and in many ways functions as a displaced "seventh" cortical layer. These observations do not undermine the importance of thalamus in sensory processing and in our conscious experience, but do complicate the relatively simple picture of regarding thalamus as a seventh cortical layer.

It's All a State of Mind

On reconstructions from ensemble neural responses (none / 0) (#121)
by Neubrain on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 06:21:06 PM EST

Reconstructions from ensemble neural responses does not say much regarding the role those neurons play in conscious experience, much less of the role they play in information processing. I imagine that had the authors recorded from V1 or V4 cortical ensembles, they would have found similar results. Besides, as someone pointed out, these cats were anesthetized, which means that any results they obtained do not have any bearing on conscious experience since the cats were likely not even conscious at the time of recording.

It's All a State of Mind

Extracting Video from Cat Brains | 122 comments (71 topical, 51 editorial, 0 hidden)
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