Research & Innovation

Brain Science Meets Artificial Intelligence During BI 2023 Conference at Stevens

The world's premier conference on brain informatics – The International Conference on Brain Informatics – recently welcomed an international field of the top minds in the emerging field to Stevens' campus for BI 2023 from Aug. 1-3. Feng Liu, assistant professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises, served as organizing committee chair in spearheading the prestigious event.

Brain informatics is an emerging interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research field that combines the efforts of cognitive science, neuroscience, machine learning, data science, artificial intelligence (AI), and information and communication technology (ICT) to explore the main problems that lie in the interplay between human brain studies and informatics research.

Stevens served as a logical host for the first U.S.-based BI Conference in five years.

"This year’s conference has really profound significance as the first in-person meeting since the COVID pandemic," said Ning Zhong, of the Maebashi Institute of Technology and the founder of the conference. "Stevens was a perfect choice because of the convenient location near New York, where there are so many experts in the field and an easy place to get to for international experts."

With AI becoming such a hot topic of conversation worldwide in the past year, it's fitting that the theme of this year's conference was "Brain Science Meets Artificial Intelligence." Over the course of three days, international experts gave presentations on topics such as human information processing systems, brain-machine intelligence, informatics paradigms for brain and mental health research, and many more.

AI and mental health are two poignant issues in today's world. One of the keynote speakers at BI 2023 was professor Helen Mayberg, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Mayberg's research focuses on treatment-resistant depression, using brain-implant devices to capture brain signals from deeply depressed patients.

"We use deep-brain stimulation, which is a conventional way to treat disorders like Parkinson's. But we use it to treat very severe depression," said Mayberg. "We've had very good clinical success and that allowed us to build neuro-engineering models and use AI to model the signal of recovery and find a signal that lets us discriminate when people are healthy vs. when they're well."

For her part, Mayberg understands society's hesitation regarding the recent proliferation of AI. But she has also seen first-hand AI's ability to analyze physical indicators in mental health patients. Instead of doctors relying on asking patients the same questions repeatedly over years of sessions, AI can analyze reactions within the brain, as well as other physical traits such as how mentally ill patients look, walk and talk, to find discrepancies among depressed subjects and healthy subjects.

"Artificial intelligence doesn't pretend to know what the pattern is. It collects a lot of data and can help find hidden messages by analyzing all the data at the same time," she said. "We see AI not as a way to control your brain, but to assist the physician. These tools are like having a stethoscope. So, we have a device gathering the signals in the brain and it's up to us to figure out what it means."

AI seems likely to remain a growing presence around the globe. With the mass amounts of data AI can compute at an exponential level, the potential mental health benefits could be literally life changing. However, it is still reliant on human ingenuity to make the most of it, deploy it effectively and use it ethically.

"Right now, it's like a NASCAR race. A bunch of people close together trying to do the same thing. And then we'll get a little further along and traffic will separate, and we'll see what's a keeper and what isn't," said Mayberg. "If we make use of these tools ethically and not in an exploitative way, everyone will benefit."

For more information, visit the official website of BI 2023 HERE.