Bridging the Gap Between the Brain and Computer: David Berglund’s Research

By Renner Kwittken

“In ten years, read Business Insider’s Silicon Valley 100 – The Most Amazing and Inspiring People in Tech. David’s smiling face will be there.” This bold prediction comes from Mr. Keith, David Berglund’s Authentic Science Research Program teacher. David, a current student, is researching something quite interesting: a new technique using current technology to allow for completely paralyzed people to communicate more easily and efficiently.

David is creating a new way for the brain and computer to communicate with each other with relative ease and “super speed.” David explains,“Every time someone hears a frequency (a vibration in the air creating a certain sound), their brain produces a response that mirrors it. By repeatedly presenting a frequency along with the visual representation of a number, that number would become subconsciously associated with the brain’s response to the designated frequency. That way, when the subject thinks of the number, the auditory response is produced. A computer can detect it, record its frequency, and match it to its designated number.” Mr. Keith was surprised that a mentor would allow David to participate in such a revolutionary technique. But in fact, David came up with this idea himself.

This process that sounds complicated involves only a human brain, a computer utilizing already existing EEG (a machine that detects electrical stimulation in the brain) technology, and classical conditioning. He is what Mr. Keith calls a “natural theoretical engineer” that can look at new technologies in new ways and create amazing ideas like this one. This real-time communication between mind and computer will not only allow communication for the paralyzed, but also allow better control over robotic prosthetics and other machinery in the future.

His mentor is Dr. Tzyy-Ping Jung, who works as the director of the Center of Computational Neuroscience at the University of San Diego. He is currently working with Jung to test and advance this technology.

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David presenting in front of his Authentic Science Research class (Image by Sarah Ehrlich).

David was forced to grow in many areas in order to overcome numerous obstacles and has become a better science researcher. He has become extremely better at presenting and articulating his research. He has gotten over procrastination habits, which at times threatened his involvement in the science research program.  

All of this arduous work has led him to many new talents as well as titles. Besides acquiring skills from being in the program, he was a finalist in the Neuroscience Research Prize. He is “proud of having been able to complete an experiment and to find out that [his] idea worked.” His work continue to advance and shape others. No doubt others will further develop his work and create revolutionary inventions.

For now, Mr. Keith sums up David in a couple words, “We are going to miss him.”