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Sound Waves For Brain Waves

Researchers use ultrasonic pulses to control the brain

3 min read

When most people hear the word ultrasound, they think of the diagnostic tool used to look inside the womb and steal glimpses at a fetus. But researchers at Arizona State University at Tempe have developed a new use for it: to control brain activity from outside the skull.

William J. Tyler, one of the technique’s developers and an assistant professor at ASU, says ultrasound will someday allow physicians to substitute neural implants with external devices. ”We’re trying to develop the technology to the point where we can do away with the electrodes that are used in vagus nerve stimulation and deep brain stimulation,” says Tyler.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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