Scientists invent Neural Lace
June 9, 2015 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Scientists have invented a flexible electronic mesh which can be injected into the brain of a mouse. Once injected the mesh unfurls and meshes with the mouse's brain.

Neural nets of this kind have appeared in such famous works as William Gibson's Neuromancer, Larry Niven's Known Space and Episode 41 of the 1986 cartoon series The Centurions
posted by Just this guy, y'know (91 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
(I have accidentally overused the word mesh)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:46 AM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


“This could make some inroads to a brain interface for consumers,” says Jacob Robinson, who develops technologies that interface with the brain at Rice University. “Plugging your computer into your brain becomes a lot more palatable if all you need to do is inject something.”


Dr. Robinson, our ideas of what is palatable differ quite a bit.

(I mean, I'm glad this might help fight Parkinson's and neurological diseases, but I'm not sure that "oh I can inject this plastic/metal mesh directly into my brain? SIGN ME UP" is quite the easy sell he thinks it is.)

Cool link, JTG,Y'K, thanks!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Finally! I've been attaching my flexible electronic mesh with rivets!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:54 AM on June 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would give almost anything to have Wikipedia and a scientific calculator immediately accessible, in my thoughts, at all times.

...just not until many, many other people have it without dying or experiencing significant cognitive detriment for at least several years.
posted by Ryvar at 7:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hmmm, so could this make a Faraday cage for the brain?
posted by infinitewindow at 7:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's this flexible nonsense I have been waiting for a threaded plug connector for the back of my skull for years!
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:00 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


... I know kung-fu!
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:00 AM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


So this may arrive ahead of schedule.
posted by notbuddha at 8:00 AM on June 9, 2015


It just bothers me that mice will be able to psychically access YouTube before I will.
posted by maxsparber at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


An important next step would be to fabricate mesh disassemblers or develop some process by which to to safely eliminate the mesh.
posted by mistersquid at 8:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


... I know kung-fu!
posted by RedOrGreen


Semi-eponysterical...
posted by Jubal Kessler at 8:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hmmm, so could this make a Faraday cage for the brain?

This could make tinfoil hats obsolete!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:05 AM on June 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


All I want is Notepad in my brain. That would solve so very, very many of my problems.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


It just bothers me that mice will be able to psychically access YouTube before I will.

Finally my exercise wheel and burrowing review channel will start paying off!
posted by tittergrrl at 8:10 AM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Hmmm, so could this make a Faraday cage for the brain?

It would be much more discreet than the tinfoil you're wearing now.

BADUM TISS.

But it would actually be dangerous for that reason. In event of a big EM pulse it could conceivably vaporize. Inside your skull.
posted by clarknova at 8:11 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damn. Greg Ace beat me to it.
posted by clarknova at 8:12 AM on June 9, 2015


They'll have to add a label to the back of the neck.

DO NOT PUT HEAD IN MICROWAVE OVEN.
posted by three blind mice at 8:12 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sounds meshy.
posted by destro at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


All I want is Notepad in my brain
c:\windows>del notepad.exe
c:\windows>rename winmine.exe notepad.exe
Hah-hah!
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just hope we actually get to use cool Gibson slang like "console cowboys" before I die.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:28 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm glad this might help fight Parkinson's and neurological diseases, but I'm not sure that "oh I can inject this plastic/metal mesh directly into my brain? SIGN ME UP" is quite the easy sell he thinks it is

You perhaps, but your grandkids, who've seen a generation or more of, by then routine medical interventions and development of the tech? Squick, and evolution of squick is generational. I know lots of 60 and 70 year olds who refused on principle to use computers, but who have been seduced by the siren call of email, Facebook or eBay on a modern laptop.
posted by bonehead at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, so could this make a Faraday cage for the brain? This will cripple the colander industry. No doubt they will suppress this invention for that reason.
posted by boilermonster at 8:35 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It just bothers me that mice will be able to psychically access YouTube before I will.

"Oh my god. It's full of cats..."
posted by Devonian at 8:36 AM on June 9, 2015 [29 favorites]




I'm the only one who assumed that the title was a Culture reference? MeFi, please.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:47 AM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


The military has also taken an interest, providing support through the U.S. Air Force’s Cyborgcell program, which focuses on small-scale electronics for the “performance enhancement” of cells.

Oh yay, super-soldiers, just what the world needs
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> “This could make some inroads to a brain interface for consumers,” says Jacob Robinson, who develops technologies that interface with the brain at Rice University. “Plugging your computer into your brain becomes a lot more palatable if all you need to do is inject something.”

This is something people consumers would want to do voluntarily?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:49 AM on June 9, 2015


This is something people consumers would want to do voluntarily?

If it meant never having to use a subpar laptop trackpad again, I'd have to give it some serious consideration.
posted by fifthrider at 8:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I'm the only one who assumed that the title was a Culture reference? MeFi, please.

No, you're not alone - I was just reading through the thread looking for a Grey Area / Meatfucker reference...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:58 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Our Caps have finally arrived!
posted by the_blizz at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love how so many people went straight to a foil-hat reference.
...OMG - conspiracy alert!!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:00 AM on June 9, 2015


The military has also taken an interest, providing support through the U.S. Air Force’s Cyborgcell program, which focuses on small-scale electronics for the “performance enhancement” of cells.

Oh yay, super-soldiers, just what the world needs


To be fair, they are limited to only operating a motorcycle, an the mouse has to make the engine sound with his mouth.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


... I know kung-fu!


Whoa.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh yay, super-soldiers, just what the world needs

Hey the future ain't gonna Warhammer 40K itself
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would give almost anything to have Wikipedia and a scientific calculator immediately accessible, in my thoughts, at all times.

... and you'd be the most boring bar-hop mate ever.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:06 AM on June 9, 2015


This is something people consumers would want to do voluntarily?

Fuck yes I would. Being able to jack in directly to music software and go 'make this sound'? (Added thought: you could get Dread's permanent music soundtrack...) Have a great idea for a blog post while you're laying in bed? No need for getting up, or turning on sleep-disturbing screens; just write while you're laying there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can confirm that it was a Culture reference. HOWEVER! The GCU Grey Area interfered with brains primarily through Electromagnetic Effectors and not via Neural Lace and therefore does not apply.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:10 AM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Given that we're looking at a law in the UK that effectively defines pleasure as a defining factor in an illicit event, I'll certainly think twice before hooking up the inside of my skull to any form of two-way network interface less under my control than my fingers (which get me in quite enough trouble, thank you.)
posted by Devonian at 9:10 AM on June 9, 2015


Don't forget to disable brain Java, and always let brain Flash install updates, and if you get a brain email you weren't expecting, don't think about the attachment.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:15 AM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


All the good jokes are taken already. What a mesh this turned out to be.
posted by Splunge at 9:20 AM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


> I can confirm that it was a Culture reference. HOWEVER! The GCU Grey Area interfered with brains primarily through Electromagnetic Effectors and not via Neural Lace and therefore does not apply.

This is true. However, he does point out to Genar-Hofoen that the Neural Lace is "the most effective torture device ever devised by humans", or at least, words to that effect.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:20 AM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I would give almost anything to have Wikipedia and a scientific calculator immediately accessible, in my thoughts, at all times.

One third of your memories would be replaced with fond rememberances of Jimmy Wales begging you for money.
posted by cmfletcher at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


As someone who volunteered for the first human trials I can attest to the harmlessness and the benefit of cheap viagra, would you like to love her all night with this one weird trick doctors hate kindest regards I beg sir if you will help I am auditor general of african development fund and I discovered one hundred fifty million dollars US a week working from home.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, I can inject this plastic/metal mesh directly into my brain?

SIGN ME UP
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


point out to Genar-Hofoen that

Actually, now I think of it, it might have been Seich, not Genar-Hofoen. Might be time for a Culture Novels re-read... :-)
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2015


Hm, I wonder if the mice let the scientists do it to see if it would improve their performance at Brockian Ultra Cricket.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


"(I mean, I'm glad this might help fight Parkinson's and neurological diseases, but I'm not sure that "oh I can inject this plastic/metal mesh directly into my brain? SIGN ME UP" is quite the easy sell he thinks it is.)"

If it allows for 2 way communication then, yes, sign me up. And sign up amputees who will now be able to get sensory data from their bionic limbs straight into the brain.
posted by I-baLL at 9:45 AM on June 9, 2015


Surgically implanting mesh into the body, you say? Sleazy TV lawyers everywhere are cuing up their jingles.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:52 AM on June 9, 2015


If I did this, could I sing in autotune, like Finn in The Jiggler?
"Remember when I swallowed that little computer?" "Oh yeah!!"
posted by dialetheia at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2015


This is something people consumers would want to do voluntarily?

Are you kidding? Of course I would. Have you ever read any Banks?

Of course I'm only doing it if the firmware and the entire development toolchain are open-source, which means I'll be waiting a while (damnation to the copyright mafia).
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:03 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


We could call it a "BrainPal", (tm) jscalzi.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think one needs the firmware and development toolchain open-source, just the final points on the interface - read: a reasonably solid assurance that write operations never go deeper than adding visual and auditory data to the optic and cochlear nerves, and that the amplitude of this input is in fact 100% controlled by subvocalizations on the input side.

As long as it's nothing more invasive than just another image or sound, and you can fade them in/out at will, the rest can be as black box/proprietary as economics dictate. Obviously the more open-source the better, but given the *cough* success of the open-source hardware movement, I wouldn't hold my breath.
posted by Ryvar at 10:16 AM on June 9, 2015


I hope this works out better than the train wreck that was pelvic mesh.
posted by bleep at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


"BrainPal"?

Algernn
posted by maxwelton at 10:18 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


What do the mice think about this?
posted by mazola at 10:26 AM on June 9, 2015


Sexy times commence.
About 15 seconds into making out a cheery voice in your head interrupts proceedings.

Meshy the happy Neuron: "It looks like you're engaging in sexy times. Would you like help? [] Get help engaging in sexy times. [] Just engage in sexy times without help. [] Don't show me this tip again."

*selects option 3*
*executes MindClick®*

Attention returns to sexy times for 3 seconds until the voice returns once more.

Meshy: "You will no longer receive tips about engaging in sexy times. Are you sure about this? [] Yes. [] No. [] Ask me again later."

*selects option 1*
*executes MindClick®*

Attention returns to sexy times for about 30 seconds until suddenly...

*ad for auto insurance begins playing at boosted volume, the animated "General" character bounces around in your visual cortex like a maniac*

*MindSkip®*... nothing
*MindSkip®*!... nothing
*MindSkip®MindSkip®MINDSKIP®!!!!!*... nothing

"... CALL 1 800 GENERAL NOW!!!!!!"

After a moment of re-adjusting to the sudden silence attention returns to sexy times for about 5 seconds until the cheerful voice returns

Meshy: "It looks like you were trying to skip a MindAd® Would you like help with that? [] Get help with skipping MindAds®. [] Continue without help. [] Don't show me this tip again."

*select option 1*
*MindClick®*

Mesh: "I'm sorry. MindAds® can not be skipped with the version of MeshOS you are currently using. Upgrade to MeshPro for only $29.95/month to skip ads after 5 seconds! Upgrade to MeshUltimate for only $79.95/month for an ad-free experience! [] Upgrade to MeshPro now. [] Upgrade to MeshUltimate now. [] Remind me again later. [] Don't ask me again."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


What do the mice think about this?

According to the readouts from the lace, "a confused squeak with overtones of fear and anger". It might just be an adaptation period.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:31 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products. I.e. attention glaring ads, bad upgrades, freemium models, in-app purchases. Something like Gibson + Ubik.
posted by destro at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure Johnny Mnemonic was all about bad upgrades...
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2015


Ryvar: I simply won't believe any such assurances unless I (or more realistically people whose technical specialties tend more in the direction of whatever processing systems are used for this machinery) can actually audit the code, independently. Tech companies talk all kinds of bullshit about their products; sometimes they even believe it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:42 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh yay, super-soldiers, just what the world needs

I bet the health consequences of brain meshes make Agent Orange look like Tang.
posted by JHarris at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products. I.e. attention glaring ads, bad upgrades, freemium models, in-app purchases.

Futurama did! At least twice.
posted by bleep at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


*sigh* I see the beginnings of the Shadowrun world (both the good and bad) rushing towards me, and I'm just sad that I'll be too old to really benefit from the coolest aspects of it.

Unless someone invents Lionization, in which case, sign me up!!
posted by sharp pointy objects at 11:10 AM on June 9, 2015


Does it come with an ad blocker? Because I

Your cognitive processes will start in 15 seconds...

BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH BUILT FORD TOUGH

dont think I want...ah god damn it
posted by sidereal at 11:13 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, I really hope Lenny keeps his playback ad-free.
posted by phoebus at 11:25 AM on June 9, 2015


It just bothers me that mice will be able to psychically access YouTube before I will.

With all those cat videos?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:39 AM on June 9, 2015


Wow, imagine a future where there's literally no difference between being technologically up to date and being insane. You'd constantly experience visual and auditory hallucinations sent into your brain from outside, and the only thing that keeps your mind from being controlled is a good firewall. Do I really like Sugar Flakes cereal, or is General Foods, Inc just manipulating my pleasure centers? Did I actually have an Aunt Bertha with a lake house, or is the tourism board just trying to give me fake nostalgia for a place I've never been? Better update the firewall!
posted by Kevin Street at 11:44 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products. I.e. attention glaring ads, bad upgrades, freemium models, in-app purchases.

The second episode of Black Mirror covers this pretty well too.
posted by dialetheia at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products.

Yes.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:58 AM on June 9, 2015


a reasonably solid assurance that write operations never go deeper than adding visual and auditory data to the optic and cochlear nerves, and that the amplitude of this input is in fact 100% controlled by subvocalizations on the input side.

Limiting its perceptible functionality to certain mundane I/O channels doesn't rule out ill intent or bad actors, it just limits its perceptible functionality to certain mundane I/O channels. What I would want is independently audited software, all of it. Kind of like what we don't have for our voting and vote-counting machines.

What I don't want is a system that uses existing sensory bandwidth: why use audiovisual and subvocal I/O? Grow some new brain tissue and develop dedicated cyborg neural pathways that are optimal for direct information exchange. The same for device control and machine interfacing: leave the existing motor neurons intact and add new ones.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:11 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products.


This Alien Shore had some good moments.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 12:15 PM on June 9, 2015


Sounds meshy.

Go home, Sean Connery, you're sober.
posted by yoink at 12:19 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Need more space in your skull? Why not invest in a Second HeadTM! There's so much to remember these days, and so many wonderful new neural technologies, that one brain just isn't enough for it all. But there's hope, because now you can invest in the latest upgrades while keeping your original noggin almost pristine! Just implant that machinery in your ergonomically designed Second HeadTM, a one pound miracle cloned from mouse tissue in the cleanest, brightest labs available. Second HeadTM will easily and unobtrusively fit in a backpack or purse, and can be used to host the latest machinery and any memories you don't need in your primary brain. Then you can access it all with a single link to your cerebellum. Many custom braincase colors available! Blink us a thoughtmail today!
posted by Kevin Street at 12:26 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Borg Collective, coming right up.
posted by Oyéah at 12:58 PM on June 9, 2015


You could probably tune this to receive to achieve complete mind control.
posted by sfts2 at 1:09 PM on June 9, 2015


They'll have to add a label to the back of the neck.

DO NOT PUT HEAD IN MICROWAVE OVEN.


three blind mice, they'll warn you about that in the final version— InterLace.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:20 PM on June 9, 2015


All our houses will look like the insides of Cylon vessels. You'll be able to download your own virtú overlay for the verite of your mundane furnishings. On the plus side, questions like this will be a lot easier to answer.
posted by bonehead at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2015


Nanukthedog: "Pretty sure Johnny Mnemonic was all about bad upgrades..."

And heroin addicted dolphins. Everybody forgets the junkie dolphins...
posted by Splunge at 3:06 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


other thoughts you might enjoy:
posted by threeants at 8:39 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clippy 2: The Brainening
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 PM on June 9, 2015


I'm putting nothing in my brain that 4chan might conceivably one day be able to hack into.
posted by um at 10:02 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's next: shooting lasers into your eyes?!
posted by eamondaly at 11:29 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "Has there ever been a sci-fi, body hack dystopia story that actually conforms with the reality of consumer products. I.e. attention glaring ads, bad upgrades, freemium models, in-app purchases."

You are looking for the book "Feed" by M. T. Anderson (not to be confused with the book of the same name by Mira Grant.)

It ... is not a happy book.
posted by kyrademon at 5:36 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely baffled by the comments in this thread. This is an input/output device. People are referencing ads and stuff but why? Do you look at keyboards and monitors and think "Man, those things are going to have ads in them!" no, you don't because ads don't come from keyboards and monitors. Ads come from websites and software on operating systems. So you guys are snarking about ads or whatever that can appear on whatever computer the mesh will be hooked up to but what does this have to do with the mesh itself? We can be talking about all of the interesting use possibilities this new technology creates and all you guys seem to think is "oh noes, ads!" which has nothing to do with the device itself in the first place.
posted by I-baLL at 10:55 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's because we know we can't have nice things.
posted by bleep at 11:29 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


what does this have to do with the mesh itself?

What does the mesh do by itself?
posted by sidereal at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2015


Allows the reading and interacting with neurons directly without the need for extensive surgery and electrodes.
posted by I-baLL at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2015


All by itself? Nope.
posted by sidereal at 2:45 PM on June 10, 2015


Uhm, what? That's what it does. It's the direct interface.

That's like saying a keyboard doesn't interact with fingers. Or a monitor doesn't interact with eyes.
posted by I-baLL at 3:24 PM on June 10, 2015


The mesh is an artificial framework that can support other things if they're tiny enough. The promise of this technique is that it could provide a relatively non-invasive way of introducing lots of artificial things into the brain at once. And if it's done to a (mouse) baby, the brain tissue might simply grow through and around the mesh, leaving it deeply embedded inside the organ when growth is finished, but without hurting brain function.

One completely add-free application that's still cool and Sci Fi is that the mesh could be the basis of a device that could bring someone back from brain death. (If it happens immediately.) It would be something like a heart defibrillator, but in this case delivering tiny shocks to carefully selected parts of the brain. You'd need lots of strategically placed electrodes on the mesh and a connection to some kind of external battery.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:04 PM on June 10, 2015


This "mesh". It vibrates, yes?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:25 PM on June 10, 2015


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