Neuroscience and Gaming the Brain

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Jonathan Wallace conferences

I love to learn and I enjoy tinkering, so when I heard of some recent advancements in the neurogaming and neurorehabilitation fields, I had to find out more. What could be cooler than direct I/O into the human brain? Is it possible to "write" to the brain? Are there new technologies or products that I can adopt to become a better Nerd, one who learns more efficiently? Here are a few ways neurogaming is changing technology and helping us hack our minds.

haptics

Every game aims for facilitating flow. By flow, I mean the way that one can sit down to play a game and then look up to find that hours have gone by. Games are usually limited to two senses, sight and sound, but Tactical Haptics has created a device that adds touch feedback. Professor William Provancher created a handheld controller that can simulate the the feeling of force and pressure. It's challenging to convey in words how cool it was to swing a sword and feel resistance based on the speed with which you wield it, or feeling the recoil of a gun.

foc.us 

The team at foc.us created a device to facilitate gaming performance by shooting electricity across the prefrontal cortex. This is called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). I've tried the device and would describe the feeling as tingly. It was much like drinking half of a espresso: a little bit of a wake-up but without any jitters. It's difficult to validate the effects of the device formally as there's no way to confirm whether improvement has taken place (yet), but I'm going to keep my eye on this product and team going forward.

play music with your mind

What if you were able to control your environment with your thoughts? NeuroDisco has a device that allows you to do just that. It attempts to use the different brain waves from an excited, frustrated or meditative state to affect melody, harmony and tempo. When I tried it, I found out that my thoughts are rather arrhythmic, or at least that's the case when I'm attempting to lay down some melody or beats on a track.

What's next

If you want to learn more about neurogaming,you should check out the NeuroGaming Conference. I did, and learned a ton about neuroscience and gaming. I was able to get my hands on devices that construct smells, improve your concentration and enable you to make quadcopters fly with just your mind. I look forward to seeing what's new at the conference next year.

There's a lot of room for developments in the field, so I'm keeping an eye on a few companies to see what they come up with. Valve is using galvanic skin response to modify game play in real time, based on a player's excitation level. I also expect good things to come from NeuroSky and Emotiv. And Twitter users @Neurogadget, @neurobonkers and @NeuroscienceNew keep me up to date with what's going on in this field. What big developments are you looking for in neuroscience?

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