Improving Brain Signal Classification

It’s true that as technical equipment and other capabilities to gather information from the brain improve, signal classification will be enhanced. So will gathering more brain data and its ability to add to our store of brain knowledge.

However the biggest potential improvement by far involves the mind. There is great potential here. The human mind – our conscious and unconscious awareness — is currently neither well-understood nor well-defined. And its relationship or connection to the brain is equally murky. But what if the mind could be clearly and accurately defined, and mapped to the brain?

Consider if someone working on an applied neuroscience project, such as a BCI and motor neuroprosthetic research group were to classifying a brain signal of the user’s intention “reach forward to grasp a cup.” To begin, there is no consensus on what aspects of mind are best to try to classify. Should it be the intention “(me) reach forward? or “my arm reach forward?” Should associated motor imagery be the main target of classification? Should a prediction (I will soon reach forward?) be included? What about the accompanying perceptual experience and recognition (of “my arm,” its motion, and what it is reaching toward)?

Or, maybe an overall brain signal that (typically) occurs during this task should be the target of classification. In other words, maybe the best thing to do is to ignore the mind altogether and classify the signal based purely on the type of task being performed (task-based signal classification).

The reason definition of mind is critical to signal classification extends beyond choosing the right mind targets to classify. Mind definitions are also crucial to defining a given signal accurately. After all, no two states of mind (during movement or any other task, or resting state) are alike. Each will have perceptual, emotional, thought, intention, attention content that will differ across time.

In short, the mind is currently poorly-defined; which is a major shortcoming giving its tremendous variability. The good news: it can be defined accurately, given a correct mind/brain theory.

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