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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new study uses a brain-computer interface (BCI) to observe the neural activity in monkeys during the process of learning.

Why it matters: The internal state of the brain is often a mystery — including to ourselves — but new neural interfaces are making it easier for scientists to observe the mind in action.

How it works: In a paper published recently in Nature Neuroscience, a large team of researchers hooked up a group of monkeys to BCIs while the study subjects were trained to play a basic computer game.

Details: The researchers found that neural fluctuations took place when the monkeys were surprised by something happening during the game.

  • Those monkeys that showed greater engagement performed better during following rounds of the test, indicating that arousal and engagement — internal states that can be difficult to track without a BCI — can affect the act of learning something new.

What they're saying: "Our understanding of what happens in the brain as one learns is super limited right now," says Byron Yu, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a co-author of the paper. But BCI "gives us an amazing window into how this happens."

Context: BCI technology has emerged as a major area of scientific research and increasingly consumer technology as the interfaces have slowly improved.

  • On Friday, Elon Musk's BCI company Neuralink released a video of a monkey with chips embedded on each side of its brain as it played a basic video game using only its thoughts.

Yes, but: BCI technology would have to progress significantly — and the applications would need to go beyond video games — before many people would be willing to have an interface drilled into their skull.

Go deeper: Elon Musk's Neuralink wants to read your brain

Go deeper

3,000 unruly passenger reports made to FAA this year

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airlines have reported some 3,000 cases of unruly behavior by passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration this year — including 2,300 for refusing to comply with face mask mandates, the FAA announced Monday.

Why it matters: Passenger numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels. But the FAA is investigating the highest number of suspected federal law violations since it began recording unruly passenger incidents in 1995, per ABC News.

Cashier killed after face mask policy dispute in Georgia grocery store

An Atlanta area grocery store cashier was killed and three other people were injured in a shooting following a dispute over a face mask policy in the supermarket Monday, police said.

Driving the news: DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said during a news conference that the female cashier was working at the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur when she was shot following a "confrontation" over the wearing of masks.

House panel to investigate Trump-era DOJ data seizures

Photo: James Devaney via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee will launch a formal probe into the Trump-era Justice Department's seizure of data from devices belonging to members of Congress, their aides, journalists and then-White House counsel, panel chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though it's so far unclear if the cases are related, they raise "serious constitutional and separation of power concerns," Nadler said in a statement.