synergy_teaser

Synergy is a neural machine prototype that enables us to reprogram human brain via brain-computer interface. At the same time, it is also an audiovisual object that reflects ourselves as well as our interaction with others. This neural machine invites us to become present in the »here and now«, as this is the only way we are able to control it via neuroheadsets that measure our brain electrical activity – EEG. In the neurochamber we connect to the machine as a neural impulse generator and ignite an infinite neuro-bio-feedback loop that can reprogram our neuroplastic brains by experiencing and controlling two responsive audiovisual objects in a virtual 3D space. Audiovisual convergence or divergence reflect synchrony or asynchrony of brain waves generated by two users, through which we learn and develop our synergetic potential, our ability for cooperation and harmonization, which is essential in the evolutionary pressure of current geopolitical situation.

Posted in Brain Talk, Synergy |

synergy_neurochamber

Come and try out your synergetic potential from 26.6. until 5.7. in our neurochamber at Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia. To reserve your time slot contact us at sasa@agapea.si.

Photos by Simona Jerala and Saša Spačal.

Posted in Brain Talk, Synergy |

synergy_society

SYNCHRONY, COHERENCE
The neurophysiological theory of higher brain functions predicts that multiple superimposed synchronized (coherent) oscillations in different frequency bands with different spatial patterns and functional correlates govern specific mental functions. Synchronized oscillatory activity of EEG signals can be measured and calculated by different correlation methods, but mostly EEG coherence analysis is used. Coherence between two EEG signals (x, y), on the other hand, equals the squared cross-correlation power spectrum in the frequency domain. It reflects the degree of amplitude- and phase-locking / coupling – the similarity and inter-dependence between two distant signals. Coherence values can span the interval between 0 and 1, where value 0 means total absence of synchronous coupling and value 1 means full matching of two signals.
In our project / experiment we observe, analyze, represent and promote EEG synchronization of brain waves of two cooperating subjects to test interpersonal harmonization, similarities, coherence. The level of synchronization will be represented in distinct AV feedback on the screen in the neurochamber.

SYNERGY
Synergy is defined on multiple levels, some of those are inherent also to our project:
• the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia (συνέργια from synergos, συνεργός), meaning “working together”.
• dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the difference of individual component actions.
• behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately, known as emergent behavior.
• the cooperative action of two or more stimuli, resulting in a different or greater response than that of the individual stimuli.
• energetically efficient way of information processing in complex coherent self-organized systems
“We cannot understand any system by seeking to comprehend each component. When elements interact with each other there is a flow of energy between them, perhaps in the form of nutrients, water, food, or information. Synergy is when the sum of the whole system is greater than the sum of its parts. We have the individual elements and we also have the relationship that adds further complexity and characteristics. Many parents will identify with having to manage not only the demands of each child but also the dynamic between them, which can create more work. The whole is not predictable from looking at the parts, because we do not know what the relationship and flow of energy is between them or how that will influence each part. From this synergy of interactions new properties will emerge. We cannot predict the wetness of water from looking at oxygen and hydrogen molecules separately. From neurons, consciousness and creativity emerge. The number of possible relationships increases exponentially with the number of parts.” (Macnamara, Looby).

EVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL
Synergy is also energetically efficient and creative way of processing information, which generates “added transcendent value” in complex systems like human brain and in social interactions, but also at a wider scale, in society as a whole. Regarding causality in evolution Peter Corning observes: “Synergistic effects of various kinds have played a major causal role in the evolutionary process generally and in the evolution of cooperation and complexity in particular. In other words, emergence itself has been the underlying cause of the evolution of emergent phenomena in biological evolution; it is the synergies produced by organized systems that are the key”.

Posted in Empathy, Evolutionary potential, Synergy |

synergy_psychology and protocol

Our mind is complex and everchanging. Mind is our collection of cognitive / psychological functions which enables perception, thinking, judgement, memory, decision making, emotions etc., and finally unique subjective consciousness. Many different disciplines like philosophy, religion, psychology and cognitive science try to understand it. The main dilemma regarding the nature of mind is its relation to the physical brain and nervous system – question of the “mind-body problem”. Cognitive neuroscience argues that physical phenomena are direct generators of our minds. At the systems level, neuroscientists investigate how biological neural networks form and physiologically interact to produce mental functions and content. Computational neuroscience develops large-scale models that simulate simple, functioning brains and cognitive science examines the mental functions that give rise to information processing, termed cognition – to understand the representational structures in the mind and computational procedures that operate on those structures. On the other hand,  psychology is the scientific study of human behavior, mental functioning (such as perception, memory etc), and experience, but also researches environmental influences (e.g. social, cultural influences,  interpersonal relationships), to explain complex human behavior. Modern evolving approach to studying the mind is integrative and inter/ transdisciplinary cooperation of many different scientific disciplines.
In our project / experiment we have decided to explore the following basic and very different states of the mind: meditative, cognitive / rational and emotional states. Additionally, we were interested in dynamic cooperation of 2 users as a form of social cognition / synergy, which is reflected in our protocol tasks. These include specific stimuli and instructions, which evoke or help specific mind states to form. Such states are mediated by specific neural activities characteristic for each state / task.

NEUTRAL STATE
Neutral state is supposed to represent basic reference point, i.e. a control / rest task, which enables all other active experimental tasks to be compared to same specific “null condition”. Neutral training must be completed first before any actions can be trained and activated.

MEDITATION
Meditation is a mental state of increased inner awareness and relaxation, without cognitive effort or external attentional and thought processes. The term meditation can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state. Meditation has a calming effect and directs awareness inward until pure awareness is achieved, described as “being awake inside without being aware of anything except awareness itself.” Brain waves exhibit specific patterns, depending on type of meditation and differ from other mental states.
Generally we expect to see a significant increase in alpha and theta activity in the frontal cortex, and a corresponding reduction in beta and gamma. Alpha activity at the rear of the head is misleading because it can be stimulated by simply closing the eyes. The distribution of this activity is significant.

CALCULATION
Cognitive mental state of calculating mathematical operations (addition, subtraction etc.), involves focused attention, working memory and executive rational processes, mediated by special networks in the brain. Beta and gamma waves dominance (with phase synchronization) but also characteristic patterns of theta and alpha dynamics.

EMPATHY
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience compassion. Mirror neurons that are strongly involved in empathy, developed in late evolution, further enabling evolution of consciousness, important for language, learning, social interactions and higher complex emotional states. Two conditions are necessary and sufficient for the creation of empathy: perception of another person as in need and adoption of that other’s perspective.

Posted in Brain Talk, Synergy |

synergy_interface testing

Posted in Brainwaves Visualization, Synergy |

synergy_technology

BCI
BCI is an abbreviation for brain–computer interface, often called a mind-machine interface, or sometimes called a direct neural interface. It is a direct communication and control pathway between the brain and an external device. BCIs are often directed at assisting, augmenting, or repairing human cognitive or sensory-motor functions.

EEG
EEG short for electroencephalography is a method, suitable for the study of oscillations, as it measures repeated, periodic electrical activity of cortical neurons. It is influenced by intrinsic qualities of neurons and by dynamic interactions between communicating neuronal networks, incorporating internal recurrent loops / intrinsic activity and external dynamics/ reactivity. The macropotential is a result of changing pattern of synchronization and desynchronization of regional brain cells, which results in amplitude changes of specific frequency bands. EEG has great time resolution and shows distinct patterns of activity like brain rhythms, oscillations. Brain rhythms can be divided into many frequency bands (delta: 0.5–4 Hz, theta: 4–7 Hz, alpha: 8–13 Hz, beta: 13–30 Hz, gamma: more than 30 Hz) with their specific functional and behavioral correlates and activating contexts and spatial scales.

MIND READING, BRAIN-READING
What enables it? Every thought / mental state can be related to characteristic pattern of activation of the brain. After we teach the computer to recognize, remember and predict these patterns, it becomes possible to “read the mind” of a person just from dynamics of temporo-spatial patterns of his or her brain activity.
Our algorithms / SW analyze your brainwaves and develop a personalized signature which corresponds to each particular task / action, as well as the background or neutral state.

Posted in BCI, Brain-reading, EEG, Synergy |

synergy_schematics

synergy_schematics

Posted in BCI, Brain Talk, EEG, Synergy |

synergy_biology

NEUROFEEDBACK LOOP
Neurofeedback loop is a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves or brain blood flow to produce a signal that can be used as feedback on brain activity to teach self-regulation. Feedback is commonly provided using video or sound, with positive feedback for desired brain activity and negative feedback for brain activity that is undesirable. Bio(nevro)feedback loop can speed up self-change via mutual influence brain-environment that enhances or inhibits the primary psychological / mental state.
Research shows neurofeedback can be an effective intervention for a range of brain-related conditions. Neurofeedback is regularly used worldwide to help patients with various conditions, e.g. addiction, ADHD, aggression, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, headaches, insomnia, Tourette syndrome, brain damage from stroke, TBI and other causes.

NEUROPLASTICITY
Your brain has the innate ability to physically change itself when faced with new, challenging experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity. Signals travel in specific neural pathways which determines your thoughts, emotions, etc. Pathways that you use regularly grow stronger. Every task you do relies on a different neural pathway. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to create new neural pathways and reshape existing ones, even as an adult. If methodically approached, this reorganization can make your brain faster and more efficient at performing. Novel challenges force your brain to work in new ways, as your brain can no longer depend on old habits — it must remodel its existing circuitry and build new pathways for information processing. Neuroplasticity is an activity dependent brain’s self-changing mechanism that is also conditioned on self-preserving nature of neurons.

MIRROR NEURONS
Mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate and other species including birds. In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.
The function of the mirror system is still a subject of much speculation. Many researchers consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception/action coupling. They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions and intentions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers also speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills, while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities. One study found that mirror neurons could discern if another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table. In addition, they argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy (Iacoboni et al., 2005).

Posted in Brain Talk, Mirror Neurons, Neurofeedback loop, Neuroplasticity, Synergy |

synergy_ethics

Synergy project uses EEG technology or electroencephalography / special headsets and multiple sensors-electrodes attached, which only records natural brain electromagnetic activity / brain waves. There is no electromagnetic stimulation, no danger of electrical shock nor any harmful radiation. All head electrodes are being desinfected by special solution before used on each visitor. All data and software analyses from recordings are strictly confidential, anonymous and will be used only for the scientific and / or artistic goals by the project team. All other potential uses must be agreed beforehand with informed consent by each user individually.
The project members wish to express their view, that every technology must be used only together with careful ethical and other regulatory considerations and with optimal safeguards included.

Posted in Brain Talk, Synergy |

synergy_third app test

Posted in Brainwaves Visualization, Synergy |

the principle of coherence in multi-level brain information processing

Review neuroscientific article authored by Matej Plankar, Simon Brežan and Igor Jerman explains the principle of coherence in multi-level brain information processing,  where coherence can be viewed as an integral part of brain  mechanisms responsible for synergetic processes / synergy of mind and behaviour. One of the authors of the article, Simon Brežan, is also part of the Synergy project.

“The tendency of natural systems to achieve order and harmony in their behaviour is a manifestation of open systems’ selforganising capacity, existing everywhere in nature (Osipov et al., 2007). Synchronisation, a process whereby objects of a different nature adjust their internal rhythms to a collective operation regime due to their mutual interactions, is one of the most captivating phenomena encountered in complex systems, and has become a major scientific tool to explain this tendency. Technically, synchronisation refers to the establishment of stable phase relationships among the oscillating components within a system of coupled oscillators due to phase locking or frequency entrainment, whose oscillatory characteristics are more generally described as the coherence. [2] Synchronisation phenomena are encountered in areas as diverse as physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, medicine, economics, and social sciences, which implies its deep significance and explanatory power (Arenas et al., 2008; Osipov et al., 2007; Pikovsky et al., 2001).

Organisms are highly excitable dissipative systems whose responses to external and internal perturbations and energy flow throughout the system must be precisely and efficiently coordinated in time and space. Synchronisation phenomena have been observed at all basic levels of biological organisation e from the precisely coordinated gene expression and metabolic cycles (for example, glycolytic oscillations) to collective physiological rhythms [3] and social interaction dynamics. [4] The functional significance of coherent oscillatory dynamics lies in the collective summation of outputs of individual elements, which enables a powerful response to a weak external input, efficient communication between different systems (that is, transfer of energy and information) and encoding information in terms of the phase, frequency, or amplitude of the oscillating system. In other words, the power (or meaning) of coherence arises from a reduction in the uncorrelated degrees of freedom into a collective operation mode, which enables long range order and coordination of biological processes (Arenas et al., 2008; Bianchi, 2008; Binhi and Rubin, 2007; Goldenfeld and Woese, 2011; Ho, 2008; Klevecz et al., 2008; Strogatz, 2003; Winfree, 2001). Coherence and synchronisation are thus important concepts in biological organisation and systems biology (Plankar et al., 2011).

Synchronised oscillations of large neuronal groups, whose frequency range spans several orders of magnitude, represent one of the most prominent characteristics of brain information processing (Buzsáki and Draguhn, 2004). It has been proposed for over twenty years that dynamic neuronal interactions rely on precise temporal coordination of single neuronal discharges and population activity in distributed neuronal assemblies. This phenomenon, generally termed neuronal synchrony, has been found to correlate strongly with cognitive functions: perception, attention, sensorimotor integration, learning, memory, consciousness, decision making etc., and pathological synchrony patterns appear in many different brain disorders. It is strongly argued that coherent neuronal oscillations are not merely an epiphenomenon, but have a direct functional relevance and a causal role in encoding representations, coordinating neuronal communication and regulating synaptic plasticity (Fell and Axmacher, 2011; Fries, 2009; Fries et al., 2007; Jensen et al., 2007; Senkowski et al., 2008; Singer, 2009; Uhlhaas et al., 2009; Uhlhaas and Singer, 2010).

There is however another type of coherence that may also be important for neuronal information processing, but which operates at the level of individual molecules and molecular complexes. The coherence of molecular dynamics has long been theoretically elaborated (Del Giudice et al., 1985; Fröhlich, 1968; Ricciardi and Umezawa, 1967), only recently gaining wider acceptance, when quantum coherence was experimentally demonstrated to directly coordinate energy flow, maximising efficiency of excitation transfer in several photosynthetic complexes (Collini et al., 2010; Engel et al., 2007; Lee et al., 2007). On the other line of research, the neuronal cytoskeleton or, more generally, the intraneuronal matrix (Woolf et al., 2009) e is increasingly acknowledged to have an important role in modifying the gating properties of ion channels and in coordinating neuronal plasticity (Janmey, 1998; Priel et al., 2010; Woolf, 2006; Woolf et al., 2009). Moreover, much theoretical and experimental effort has been focussing on the coherent properties and long-range signal transfer within cytoskeletal elements, most notably in the microtubules (Bandyopadhyay, 2010; Cifra et al.,2010; Jibu et al., 1994; Mershin et al., 2006; Priel et al., 2006a; Sahu et al., 2011; Tuszynski et al., 1997). It is hypothesised that such intrinsic information processing capacity could provide the neurons with greater autonomy in response (Woolf et al., 2009), complementary to their classical membrane-dependent characteristics.

Footnotes
[2] Although not identical, the terms coherence and synchronisation are often used interchangeably. Throughout this review, we will use both according to their traditional use in respective fields.
[3] These include, for example, heart contraction, brain oscillations, circadian rhythms, hormonal secretion, locomotion, etc.
[4] Common examples are synchronised signalling in crickets and fireflies, the dynamic behaviour of dense groups of animals, such as bird flocks or fish schools, bacterial quorum sensing, collective hunting strategies, etc. An interested reader may find further examples in the cited literatute.”

The article was published by Matej Plankar, Igor Jerman, Simon Brežan in renowned international scientific journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology in 08/ 2012 and is available at this link: The principle of coherence in multi-level brain information processing.

Posted in Brain Talk, Mirror Neurons, Neuroplasticity, Synergy |

synergy_logo

Posted in Synergy |

the brain’s inner workings

Posted in Brain Talk |

synergy_second app test

Posted in Brainwaves Visualization, Synergy |

self-preserving nature of neurons

Daniel C. Dennett, philosopher, on the self-preserving nature of neurons which is the basis for understanding neuroplasticity of the human brain:

We’re beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it’s much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy. Sometimes you can achieve stability and mutual aid and a sort of calm united front, and then everything is hunky-dory, but then it’s always possible for things to get out of whack and for one alliance or another to gain control, and then you get obsessions and delusions and so forth.
You begin to think about the normal well-tempered mind, in effect, the well-organized mind, as an achievement, not as the base state, something that is only achieved when all is going well, but still, in the general realm of humanity, most of us are pretty well put together most of the time. This gives a very different vision of what the architecture is like, and I’m just trying to get my head around how to think about that.

Dennett thus argues that each neuron is far from being a simple logical switch, and further explains, that neuron is a little agent with an agenda, “and they are much more autonomous and much more interesting than any switch.” Dennett describes a number of ways the brain spontaneously reorganizes itself to changing conditions — and says that a neuroscientist who doesn’t have an architecture that can explain how this happens, and why this is, has a very deficient model.

He continues: Why should these neurons be so eager to pitch in and do this other work just because they don’t have a job? Well, they’re out of work. They’re unemployed, and if you’re unemployed, you’re not getting your neuromodulators. If you’re not getting your neuromodulators, your neuromodulator receptors are going to start disappearing, and pretty soon you’re going to be really out of work, and then you’re going to die.

This is a fascinating perspective, one that offers a kind of Darwinian approach to brain cells. He’s basically saying that neurons, like organisms, are subject to selectional pressures, and by virtue of this, have to find ways to adapt and stay useful in the brain. The end result, in conjunction with other adaptive processes, is the advent of a highly functional and well-tempered brain that works to keep the host alive. Think of it as a kind of “selfish neuron” hypothesis.

Link to the conversation with Daniel C. Dennett: The Normal Well-Tempered Mind

Posted in Brain Talk, Neuroplasticity |

synergy_first app test

Posted in Brainwaves Visualization, Synergy |

mirrorbox

Megan May Daalder, the maker of the Mirrorbox, asked it’s users, “What do you think of this?”
And they answered with the same answer more or less: “It’s weird.”

But one of them reported the following: “I’ve come to realize that this experiment exposes ourselves to others in ways that are considered “weird” because it is not a usual thing to do. Looking at someone in the eyes has a powerful influence on the synergy between two persons. When I did the experiment, I felt as if I was pushed into the limelight, revealing a part of me that is usually kept in covertness. It made me feel vulnerable in a way, yet at the same time, I felt more at ease and comfortable with myself, and being in the skin I am in. Weird, isn’t it? It is, but I assure you, it is a very good thing…”

Posted in Empathy, Mirror Neurons |

know thyself with a brain-scanner

Posted in BCI, Brain Talk, Brain-reading, Brainwaves Visualization, EEG |

brain mapping

Brain mapping is a set of neuroscience techniques predicated on the mapping of [biological] quantities or properties onto spatial representations of the brain resulting in maps. Real-time map of mental activity in four significant brainwave frequency bands that are used in Synergy:
BETA [15-30Hz] indicating wakefulness, alertness, mental engagement and conscious processing of information.
ALPHA [8-15Hz] indicating relaxed alertness, restful and meditative states.
THETA [4-8Hz] indicating deep meditative states, daydreaming and automatic tasks.
DELTA [0.5-4Hz] indicating deep sleep, restfulness, and conversely excitement or agitation when delta waves are suppressed.

Posted in Brain Mapping, Brain-reading, Brainwaves Visualization |

neuroheadset

Posted in BCI, Brain-reading, EEG |