Tracking pilots’ brains to reduce risk of human error

Earlier this year, a Germanwings jet carrying 150 people crashed into a remote area of the French Alps, killing everyone on board. Authorities say co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had suffered from suicidal tendencies and depression, intentionally crashed the Barcelona-Düsseldorf flight but they are still puzzling over why he did it. Scientists from France, the US and Japan are now working together to better understand how a pilot’s brain functions . The Germanwings accident was a unique case, so scientists have extended their research to understand pilots’ physiological and neurological reactions to stress, with the aim of being able to identify the signals that precede potential error in order to prevent it. (EuroNews)

Combining computer vision and BCIs to speed up mine detection

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have combined sophisticated computer vision algorithms and a brain-computer interface to find mines in sonar images of the ocean floor. The study shows that the new method speeds detection up considerably when compared to existing methods (mainly visual inspection by a mine detection expert). (R&D Magazine)

Free choice and monkeys: researchers record the moment a mind is changed

Free will is considered the domain of philosophers, but this long lasting question might actually be put to rest by neuroscience. In a most intriguing research, a team at Stanford analyzed the key brain motor patterns in monkeys as they made specific decisions, and eventually recorded the moment-by-moment patterns that lead to change of mind. This basic neuroscience discovery could be used to improve brain-computer algorithms and thus refine control of thought-controlled prostheses such that a robotic arm or leg might be moved only when the user is certain of its decisions, thereby avoiding premature or inopportune moments. (ZME Science)