Tuesday, May 24, 2016

doing the most: eavesdropping neuronal snmp < hacking dreams

ted |  Now, if you were interested in studying dreams, I would recommend starting first by just looking at people's thoughts when they are awake, and this is what I do. So I am indeed a neuroscientist, but I study the brain in a very non-traditional way, partially inspired by my background. Before I became a neuroscientist, I was a computer hacker. I used to break into banks and government institutes to test their security. And I wanted to use the same techniques that hackers use to look inside black boxes when I wanted to study the brain, looking from the inside out.
Now, neuroscientists study the brain in one of two typical methods. Some of them look at the brain from the outside using imaging techniques like EEG or fMRI. And the problem there is that the signal is very kind of blurry, coarse. So others look at the brain from the inside, where they stick electrodes inside the brain and listen to brain cells speaking their own language. This is very precise, but this obviously can be done only with animals. Now, if you were to peek inside the brain and listen to it speak, what you would see is that it has this electrochemical signal that you can translate to sound, and this sound is the common currency of the brain. It sounds something like this.
So I wanted to use this in humans, but who would let you do that? Patients who undergo brain surgery. So I partner with neurosurgeons across the globe who employ this unique procedure where they open the skull of patients, they stick electrodes in the brain to find the source of the problem, and finding the source can take days or sometimes weeks, so this gives us a unique opportunity to eavesdrop on the brains of patients while they are awake and behaving and they have their skull open with electrodes inside.
So now that we do that, we want to find what triggers those cells active, what makes them tick. So what we do is we run studies like this one. This is Linda, one of our patients. She is sitting here and watching those clips.
(Video) ... can't even begin to imagine.