Art from artificial intelligence activates specific neurons

Kari Kimball, Contributing Writer

Brains of primates recently were affected by artwork created by artificial intelligence. Nerve cells in macaques, a species of monkey, fired more frequently when they were exposed topicture generated by artificial Intelligence “AI” as opposed to real-world objects.

In one of the experiments, the intention was for the AI to create patterns that would potentially activate neurons at a specific site in the ventral stream as much as possible. A neuron is a nerve cell that specializes in transmitting nerve impulses. They are located all throughout the body and work together to relay messages to the brain.

The ventral stream is a specific neural pathway in the brain that is involved in vision. 40 of the 59 monkeys experienced more neuron firings from pictures generated by artificial intelligence than images of a real-world object. The AI-made images normally caused neurons to fire 39 percent more in the monkeys’ brains than their maximum response to real-world images.

In another experiment, the artificial intelligence created patterns intended to target certain neurons and make them fire and minimize activity of other neurons.

The AI was able to isolate neural activity to 25 of the 33 target sites without stimulating another area of the brain. Researchers are hopeful that later studies of the same design will create even better results when more sophisticated and precise artificial intelligence tools are developed.

Primates brains are very similar to human brains, so the effect of the artwork on the macaques’ brains may be similar to the effect it will have on human brains.

This new tool of being able to control neural activity using images could potentially lead to new kinds of neuroscience experiments and treatments for mental disorders.

Neuroscientists often want to study the function of individual neurons. The new AI-based technology provides a non invasive way to selectively activate target neurons. With a recent rise in number of diagnosed mental disorders, it is increasingly important to develop new and improved ways to treat these disorders.