HC 177: Biotech & Art Neuro Imaging Art and Manipulation Madushka Yohan De Zoysa Neuroscience
The fusion of art and science is supposed to both create a dialogue among the community and push the boundaries of what can be accomplished in both art and science. One can develop a program that would integrate the results of an EEG to produce a visual recording much like an fMRI. Further, this recording can be combined with the results of an electroencephalophone which can convert brain waves into sound to achieve an audiovisual piece created solely through an individual’s thoughts. Medical applications of this include using this technology measure brain activity in patients with neuromuscular disorders. Additionally, the same technology can be used to create a transcranial magnetic stimulation cap that can noninvasively enhance or inhibit specific parts of brain activity.
Neuroimaging work is highly limited to obtaining images of patients’ brain activity while they are lying almost completely still. As a result, it is impossible to get images of brain activity in the motor and somatosensory cortices. Thus, these areas of the brain cannot be analyzed, and misfiring of neurons in this region cannot be recognized. This poses a very difficult problem in diagnosing motor or sensory disorders originating in the cortex. An additional problem with current imaging technology is that even slight movement results in unusable results.
There is also a lack of technologies involving noninvasive neural stimulation. The only method that exists has low spatial resolution which results in stimulation of large portions of the brain at a time.
Context and Precedents An EEG measures the electric activity of certain parts of the brain based upon the firing of neurons. fMRIs display which areas of the brain are more active by mapping changes in blood flow in the brain. As a result, brain areas that are engaged in neural activity experience an increase in metabolism and blood flow, which shows up as a bright region on the fMRI. Transcranial magnetic stimulators use changing magnetic fields to induce weak electric currents in the brain. This works to manipulate the electrical activity already present in the brain.
Project Proposal - Artistic Aspect Visual Portion EEGs reveal neural activity in specific areas of the brain based on electrical signaling. Integrating all these wavelengths of activity has the potential to create a changing map of global brain function, much like what is found in fMRIs. Different portions of the brain will light up based on what the subject is doing/thinking at that given moment. Audio Portion Using an electroencephalophone, it is possible to make audible what is normally never considered to make sound  . One can combining brainwave sounds with a real-time map of the changing brain activity map to create a unique audiovisual piece unique to every individual who performs it.
Project Proposal - Diagnostic Aspect The functional EEG activity map will prove invaluable as a diagnostic tool. Patients who are incapable of remaining still (Parkinson’s and epilepsy patients) will be able to finally image their brain activity and gain a better sense of where their problem lies.  Additionally, patients with neuromuscular disorders can understand how their neurons misfire when attempting to move a muscle. Other neurological anomalies, such as phantom limb syndrome (an example of synaesthesia) can be examined.
Project Proposal - Clinical Aspect Current transcranial magnetic stimulators have the same low spatial resolution problem as current fMRIs. As mentioned before, they use affect electric currents through magnetic fields created by two large loops of metal. This is what creates the low spatial resolution. By making these metal coils smaller and attaching them to an EEG-type cap, it is possible to selectively stimulate parts of the brain. Can be used to manage seizures as they develop as well as enabling brain function recovery in stroke patients.
These tools in the proper environment can become a powerful tool to aid doctors in diagnosing and treating various neurological disorders. In the hands of an artist, this technology can also produce artwork that can claim a stamp of individuality unlike any other piece before it. However, if this technology is not properly controlled or monitored (in particular the TMS cap) it can be used in an abusive manner with dire consequences. By the nature of how it operates, the TMS cap’s primary purpose is to manipulate brain activity. Overuse of it can be both physically damaging and highly addicting, just like any drug. Lastly, manipulation of structures such as the hippocampus can alter our memories and possibly our own consciousness. As such, use of these machines should be limited and carefully monitored.
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