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Research on creating human super-intelligence wins major new Science Prize

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As tech billionaires like Elon Musk and scientists like Stephen Hawking, warn of an impending artificial intelligence arms race, a collection of groundbreaking new research into human super-intelligence and brain performance has won a major new European research prize.

Led by prominent neuroscientists Mikhail Lebedev,Ph.D. and senior researcher at Duke University, Ioan Opris, Ph.D. and associate scientist at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and Manuel Casanova, M.D. and professor the University of South Carolina School of Medicine as Editors, more than 600 authors contributed almost 150 research articles investigating brain augmentation – on everything from brain-machine interfaces, neuro-stimulators and the application of neuro-pharmacology. The special collection of articles Augmentation of brain function: facts, fiction and controversy, was published as a Frontiers Research Topic, and is available as an open access eBook.

Just a decade or two ago the idea of brain augmentation was reserved for science fiction but with the rapid development of neuroscience and related technological and medical fields, many of the past decade's science fiction themes – sending information to the brain, reading out information from brain content, transferring simple memories from one brain to another, and adding artificial parts to the brain – are becoming real.

"By 2030, augmentation of intelligence with brain implants will no longer be only the subject of research; people will have to deal with the reality of this new paradigm. This collection of research should alert scientists and the broader public to its possible ethical, medical, health and legal implications," says Editor Lebedev.

In one research paper in the collection, Donor/recipient enhancement of memory in rat hippocampus, Sam Deadwyler, Ph.D., a professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, and his colleagues, describe a donor-recipient memory transfer. In a smart experiment, a donor rat performed a behavioral task requiring memorization. The memory content from the hippocampus of the donor rat was then decoded and, using electrical micro-stimulation, transferred to the hippocampus of another rat. After the donor rat's neural activity was processed by a multiple-input multiple-output model, and delivered to the recipient's brain, the recipient rat successfully reproduced the behavioral task as well as the donor rat that had learned it.

Another paper explores something that we all love – sleep! In the paper Sleep for cognitive enhancement, Susanne Diekelmann, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Tubingen in Germany, reviews enhancing the potential of sleep for such cognitive functions as attention, language, reasoning, decision making, learning and memory. The article discusses the role of sleep in memory consolidation and the acquisition of new memories after sleep, the role of sleep-specific brain oscillations in these processes and neurotransmitters involved.

"You will be amazed by how much we will have advanced in 2030," says Editor Opris, a sentiment echoed by Editor Casanova, "There are as many possibilities as the imaginations of researchers. I think that nanotechnology, passive sympathetic resonance, photo-biomodulation and brainwave entrainment will modulate brain function in ways more effective and with less side effects than any present technique. There is also the new field of wearable electronics where intelligence could be conveyed to us through glasses or sewn devices."

This winning Research Topic, Augmentation of brain function: facts, fiction and controversy, competed against nine other finalists. It received over 1 million views and downloads demonstrating the enormous scientific interest and social relevance of this area of research. Two other Research Topics received special mentions from the jury – one looking at what it would take to protect the oceans and save marine life that is disappearing at an alarming rate and another investigating microbiomes – the hidden world of microbes that cover us inside and out and that are silently shaping us and our environment.

The jury drawn from Frontiers' Editorial Boards chose the winning Research Topic, judging on international reach, subject novelty and coverage, interdisciplinary character, and academic excellence.

Frontier's Executive Editor, Frederick Fenter,Ph.D, said the US$100,000 Frontiers Spotlight Award will support the winning Research Topic Editors to organize an international scientific conference in 2018 around brain augmentation, "The conference will provide a forum to catalyze, inspire and mobilize the rest of the research community and start an open dialogue on the ethical and philosophical considerations around brain enhancement that will become very real and practical in the near future."

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About Frontiers:

Frontiers is a leading community-driven open-access publisher. By taking publishing entirely online, we drive innovation with new technologies to make peer review more efficient and transparent. We provide impact metrics for articles and researchers, and merge open access publishing with a research network platform – Loop – to catalyse research dissemination, and popularize research to the public, including children. Our goal is to increase the reach and impact of research articles and their authors. Frontiers has received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing in 2014. http://www.frontiersin.org.

About Frontiers Research Topics:

Frontiers Research Topics are interdisciplinary collections of peer-reviewed open-access articles which are defined, managed and lead by active researchers. Research Topics drive discussions among experts in the field and increase the discoverability and readership of research.

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