BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN BRAIN AND MACHINE: NEW CHALLENGE FOR ART AND SCIENCE

9 04 2009

CIANT LAB researchers proposed to organize a session at Science beyond Fiction: The Euroepan Future Technologies Conference (FET09) with a title “Bridging the Gap between Brain and Machine: New Challenge for Art and Science”. The session was evaluated and accepted by the programme committee into the official conference programme. Moreover, it will also be brought to general public on April 22, 2009, at DOX, starting at 5 PM.

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The session will address explorations and aspirations of hard-core researchers beside the ones of artists in the field of brain-machine interfaces. Recently, neuroscientists have significantly advanced brain-machine interface (BMI) technology to the point where severely disabled people who cannot contract even one leg or arm muscle now can independently compose and send e-mails and operate a TV in their homes. They are using only their thoughts to execute these actions. Thanks to the rapid pace of research on the BMI, one day, individuals may be able to feed themselves with a robotic arm and hand that moves according to their mental commands. The potential of bringing practical behavioural acts to more people is growing. What is the current state-of-the-art of research and creative exploration of the BMI technology? What are the emerging and future visions of controlling machines with brains and brains with machines? We propose to deal specifically with the future of neuroprosthetics in terms of coupling brain recording and stimulation, with signal-recording methods, with multiple regions of the cortex for driving cognitive functions well beyond movement, as well as with significance of learning and creative processes in using different external brain-controlled devices. The session will bring together researchers and artists to challenge current concepts and formulate new visions for neural interface technology. The goal is to link theory and practice in science and art while enabling different disciplines to engage in an open dialogue. The session will include interactive both scientific and artistic demonstrations and will aim to stimulate further discussion. Aside a strong interdisciplinary character of the session itself the main intention is to engage visionary scientists in a dialogue with innovators from the creative and cultural industries, including computer games and interactive arts. The objective is to exemplify scientific and technological advances of the BMI technology and at the same time to deal with a more general interest in it of citizens and entrepreneurs. “The future gets closer every day…”

Speakers:

Olga Jafarova – Head of Biofeedback Computer Systems Laboratory, Research Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia

Janez Janša – Co-founder and director of Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Alexander Ya. Kaplan – Head of Human Brain Research Group, Department of Human Physiology, Faculty of Biology, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Anders Sandberg – James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and research associate at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford, United Kingdom

Reinhold Scherer – Technical manager of the Institute for Neurological Rehabilitation and Research affiliated with the rehabilitation center Judendorf-Straßengel, Austria, and former research associate at the Department of Applied Neuropsychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria

Pavel Smetana – Director of CIANT, former professor of virtual reality at the Arts Academy in Aix-en-Provence

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SCIENCE BEYOND FICTION:

THE EUROPEAN FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES CONFERENCE

April 21-23, 2009, Clarion Congress Hotel

ENTER festival is scheduled to run in parallel and partnership with Science beyond Fiction: The European Future Technologies Conference (FET09) that is a new European forum organized by the European Commission dedicated to frontier research in future and emerging information technologies. Leading scientists, policy-makers, industry representatives and science journalists will convene over 3 days to discuss today’s frontier science, tomorrow’s technologies and the impact of both on tomorrow’s society.

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Selected keynote speakers:

Albert-László Barabási, Northeastern University, Boston, USA. Barabási is a Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University where he directs the Center for Complex Network Research. Barabási is the author of “Linked: The New Science of Networks”, the co-author of “Fractal Concepts in Surface Growth” (Cambridge, 1995), and the co-editor of “The Structure and Dynamics of Networks” (Princeton, 2005). His work leads to the discovery of scale-free networks in 1999, and proposed the Barabasi-Albert model to explain their widespread emergence in natural, technological and social systems, from the cellular telephone to the WWW or online communities. Barabási is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. In 2005 he was awarded the FEBS Anniversary Prize for Systems Biology and in 2006 the John von Neumann Medal by the John von Neumann Computer Society from Hungary, for outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology.

H. Henrik Ehrsson, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Ehrsson is a medical doctor and neuroscientist by training (M.D., Ph.D.) He worked as a research scientist at University College London and he is now a senior lecturer and research group leader at the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Ehrsson has published over 30 articles on how we perceive our own bodies and how we control our bodily movements. His current research addresses the fundamental questions of how we recognize that our limbs are part of our own body, and why we feel that one’s self is located inside the body. Erhsson’s labs’ main goal is “to identify the multisensory mechanisms whereby the central nervous system distinguishes between sensory signals from one’s body and from the environment. The long term goal is to develop a physiology-based model of the central representation of one’s body”.

Henry Markram, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. Previously working at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the NIH, UCSF, and the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg (Germany), Henry Markram is the founder of the Brain Mind Institute (BMI) at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and director of the Blue Brain Project. Among other major scientific results, Markram discovered the three fundamental principles of synaptic learning in the brain: The first is called Spike Timing Dependent Plasticity (STDP) where the relevance of each of the 10′ of thousands of inputs to neurons is judged with millisecond water-shed precision – and rewarded or punished accordingly. The second is called Redistribution of Synaptic Efficacy (RSE) where the content of information transfered by each synapse in the brain is tuned to allow neurons to extract the correct information from their neighbors. The third is called Long-Term Microcircuit Plasticity (LTMP) where the brain rewires itself in response to an experience so that the circuitry is better structured to absorb and store new information.

Ehud Shapiro, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Shapiro founded and served as the CEO of Ubique Ltd., an internet software pioneer. Building on “Concurrent Prolog”, a project aimed at developing a high-level programming language for parallel and distributed computer systems, he developed “Virtual Places,” a precursor to today’s widely-used Instant Messaging systems. Currently, Shapiro is leading research projects at the interface of computer science and molecular biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he attempts to build a computer from biological molecules; a computer that would operate inside the living body, programmed with medical knowledge to diagnose diseases and produce the requisite drugs. In other projects, he designed an effective method of synthesizing error-free DNA molecules from error-prone building blocks and developed a biological model that may explain the root cause of genetic disorders such as Huntington disease. He has also developed a method for tracing the “genealogy” of cells in the human body, an approach that is being used to investigate fundamental questions in biology and medicine, recently providing the most conclusive evidence to date that cancer originates from a single cell of a mature organism. For this work Shapiro received the 2004 World Technology Network Award in Biotechnology and was a member of the 2004 “Scientific American 50” as Research Leader in Nanotechnology.

Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna, Austria. Zeilinger is internationally recognized as a scientific leader in the foundations of quantum mechanics and as one of the founders of the field of quantum information science. With entangled photons, the main focuses of Anton Zeilinger’s research since 2000 were all-optical quantum computation, the development of entanglement-based quantum cryptography systems, and experiments with entangled photon pairs over very large distances. In 2005, Zeilinger with his group again started a new field, the quantum physics of mechanical cantilevers. They were the first to demonstrate experimentally the self-cooling of a micro-mirror by radiation pressure, that is, without feedback. Anton Zeilinger’s international awards include the King Faisal Prize of Science and the Newton Medal of the Institute of Physics.