Studying the brain is not a new thing but studying the neurons and how they respond to the environment and experience is no doubt a new concept. The more the animal is exposed to shapes, objects and light, the better it can perceive them. Well, the researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have succeeded in studying the brain and the action of genes that shapes it. Here is an abstract from the press release… “This work represents a technological breakthrough,” said first author Kuan Hong Wang, a research scientist at the Picower Institute who will launch his own laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in the fall. “This is the first study that demonstrates the ability to directly visualize the molecular activity of individual neurons in the brain of live animals at a single-cell resolution, and to observe the changes in the activity in the same neurons in response to the changes of the environment on a daily basis for a week.” The study exploited the power of two-photon microscopy (so-called because it uses two infrared photons to emit fluorescence in tissue), which allows imaging of living tissue up to 1 millimeter deep, enough for researchers to see proteins expressed within individual neurons within the brain. They then created a mouse model in which a coding portion of the Arc gene was replaced with a jellyfish gene encoding a green fluorescent protein (GFP). Neural activities that normally activate the Arc gene then activated the GFP, leaving a fluorescent trace detectable by two-photon microscopy. The genetically engineered mice were let loose in an environment containing a cylinder covered with stripes of vertical or horizontal lines, and the proteins in their brains were monitored as the mice saw the cylinders daily. This advance, coupled with other brain disease models, could “offer unparalleled advantages in understanding pathological processes in real time, leading to potential new drugs and treatments for a host of neurological diseases and mental disorders,” said Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, a co-author of the study.
If the research carried out by the experts at the University of Washington to develop a brain implant chip gets completed successfully, it could be of great help to the patients suffering from brain injuries, stroke or paralysis as the electronic implantable chip will set up new nerve connections in the part of brain (motor cortex) that directs the movement. All the research findings will be published under the title of ‘Long-Term Motor Cortex Plasticity Induced by an Electronic Neural Implant’. The new brain implant chip will be a helping hand in the rehabilitation of the patients with brain injuries and paralysis.
Artificial blood? Yes, I am talking about the artificial blood that will sometime in the near future replace our blood. Oxycyte is a man-made pure white compound that has the ability to carry oxygen 50 times more efficiently than our own blood. Researchers claim that if the Oxycyte performs well in the trials, it will become the first FDA approved drug to treat to treat the leading cause of accidental deaths, the traumatic brain injury.
Mark Humayun, M.D., Professor of University of Southern California is currently working on a novel device that mimics the functioning of human retina and is anticipated to restore sight in the retinal diseases affected patients some time in the near future. This eye implant that passes on images to the brain is expected to meet realism anytime soon. Interestingly, the device has already proved successful in restoring partial sight to totally visually impaired patients. The retinal implant comprises of a set of electrodes on a chip, which is surgically fastened to the retina. It accepts images from a tiny lightweight video camera placed on a pair of glasses. Humayun hopes to get FDA thumbs up for the device in two to three years that will reinstate partial vision for RP patients. He also anticipates a third generation device that will boast the image resolving power required to aid AMD patients Via: Sciencentral
With the advent of internet and advancement in Science, things are really becoming easier and at doorstep! You would be amazed to know in a recent research bypassing of our own vestibular nervous signals is becoming possible by implanting microchip. This would certainly help in curing a few balance disorders. This process of implanting is available on internet for the new scientist subscribers. If you are a non subscriber then just wait and watch! Often we lost our sense of balances during prolonged illness or accidents. This implantable chip helps people in restoring their senses. In order to balance, we mainly depend on vestibular system. It is a set of fluid filled canals in our inner ear. While any movement, disturbances are being picked up by the tiny hairs. Nerves that are being attached to the canals starts transmitting signals to brain. Simultaneously, brain passes this information to muscles, so that it will control eyes and posture. This intense system often gets damaged with a loud blast, age, infection. This would result in physical disability, such as dizziness and unable to walk. Earlier by blocking vestibular systems and usage of prosthesis researchers have restored balance in animals. In case, gyroscopes have detected rotation of head then prosthesis helps in transmitting electrical signal to vestibular nerve. Do you know the smallest gyroscope measures around 1 centimeter long? Thus, if you want to implant the entire system is too big! Image:weblogsinc Via:medgadget
Hmm…a portable brain scanner from Hitachi! Looks like the guys at the company have taken a break from manufacturing LCDs and Plasmas. Anyway, they have developed a prototype lightweight, portable brain scanner that allows users to keep tabs on their mental activity, thanks to the optical topography technology that stores the real-time brain activity in flash memory for examination. The personal mind reader system features a 400 gram headset and a 630 gram controller, which is worn on the waist. A single PC can maintain up to 24 mind readers simultaneously thereby enabling many users to monitor brain activity during group activities. The technology could be used in areas such as health, psychology, education, marketing, and mind gaming. Hitachi hasn’t commented anything on the personalization of the personal mind reader. Via: Pinktentacle
A 3-D ultrasound scanner for use in minimally invasive brain surgeries has been discovered by a team of biomedical engineers at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. This brain-scanner can be used for bedside patient monitoring in the absence of CT and MRI facilities. The following image (Credit: Image courtesy of Duke University) shows senior researcher, Stephen Smith, with the brain-scanner. Brain surgeons currently rely on 2-D ultrasound or MRI, but a lot of information is missed in 2-D. Also MRI machines are expensive and requires a separate room and only special surgical instruments can be used near its strong magnetic field. Last year the team reported the development of a 3-D ultrasound device for endoscopic surgeries through a tiny hole of around 3 cm diameter. To make it suitable for brain scanning, they have further shrunk the probe so that it can now go through a 10 mm key-hole in the skull. Also they had to shift the orientation of the ultrasound beam with respect to the probe. Rather than capturing a side view, the probe looks straight ahead and shoots ultrasound like water from a hose and that is how the brain’s image can be produced with only a tip inserted through the keyhole. The team has successfully demonstrated the brain-scope on a dog’s brain, a team member was able to insert a needle into a particular part of its brain just like how it is required in brain surgeries to drain cerebrospinal fluid. They also demonstrated the use of dyes to make blood vessels clearly visible in ultrasound images of the brain. Image:sciencedaily