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Medicine Science Technology

Neural Prosthetic Acts Like "Bridge" Over Damaged Brain Areas 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the spanning-the-gap dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "If you can't fix it, go around it. That's the thinking behind an experimental treatment for traumatic brain injury. Using an implanted microdevice, researchers recorded the electrical signals from a sensory region of a rat's brain, skipped over a damaged brain region that typically processes sensory information, and sent the electric signals on to the premotor cortex. This cyborg mouse could then move normally. What this means is that we're getting better at speaking the brain's language — even if we don't understand it, we can mimic it."
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Neural Prosthetic Acts Like "Bridge" Over Damaged Brain Areas

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now I just need a low-latency wifi, a jar of nutrient solution, and a freezer full of brainless clones of myself. One connected at a time, followed by a 3-week detached workout cycle, then back to the freezer.

  • by WillgasM (1646719) on Monday December 09, 2013 @06:37PM (#45644573) Homepage
    Stop Hitting Yourself! Stop Hitting Yourself!
  • Can it help me finally "get" Prolog?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For a moment I thought I'm playing XCom and reading one of those research reports on aliens autopsies.

  • The took a page from their book and made a bridge over troubled waters.

    Awesome!

  • now, that's the meme for modern science.... just like quantum mechanics or particle physics. we can 'make it work', but we really don't know why. Higgs to the rescue? we still don't know. faith-based? anyone?
    • Obviously not faith based as they were doing experiments. Faith based is reading a book and then closing your eyes.

    • If anything, it's the opposite: Experimentally, we observe a variety of effects as we prod the black box in various ways, examine it with various clever inferential techniques, and so on. In some cases, we are able to develop reliable "If you poke it there, it does that, reliably" type rules based on repeated observation. However, our prodding of the system has not yet provided enough information to posit the underlying structure, that would unify all our disparate observations of patterns. So, we don't hav
    • by fractoid (1076465)
      And yet they talk about "even a simple act of perception or cognition". Wow. Yeah cognition is pretty simple, it's not like it's one of the greatest unsolved mysteries we have or anything.
  • Radhakrishnan, is it?
  • There is still hope for mankind.
  • by mbstone (457308) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:53PM (#45645475)

    When you're dimwitted
    Feeling dumb
    When circuits in your brain
    Make your mind go numb

    I'm in your head
    When dendrites are dead
    And neurons can't be found
    Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
    Now your mind is sound
    Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
    Now your mind is sound

    When your motor nerves
    Trip you on your feet
    When your amygdala fails
    And can't comfort you

    I'll cure your rats
    Who can't get fat
    When pellets are all around
    Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
    Now your mind is sound
    Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
    Now your mind is sound

  • Having an implant that can 'patch over' damaged brain areas should make lesion studies more subtle and precise. They can certainly tell us something already, at least in broad strokes, about what functions go where; but it's hard to shake the question of 'if you damage area X, does function Y suffer because area X handles it, or because it depends on connectivity through area X between areas W and Q?' If we have a technique for replacing a functional area with a mere transmission line, that gives us greater ability to differentiate between an area with a functional role in some function and an area with a merely connective role (presumably, there are also areas that are mostly connective; but apply some amount of signal processing between input and output. In the future, maybe we will be able to write arbitrary signal processing filters and patch them in, in software, between the input and the output of this 'bridge' device. That'd be extra neat).
    • by Prune (557140)
      "Transmission line" is a technical term narrowly defined in two fields: electrical power distribution, and communications. In the latter, it's a signal-carrying structure (coax, waveguide, etc.) designed to take into account radiative losses and reflections due to the increasingly dominant with higher frequency wave-nature of the signal. Neural impulses are at orders of magnitude lower frequency, so neither fits. I could see you making an analogy with conditioning the signal during its propagation, in the c
  • In other words, the Mouse Borg has begun.
  • Sort of like the I-405 through Los Angeles.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:55PM (#45647337) Homepage Journal

    I once went to a bioethics panel on computing and neuroscience and asked the ethicist who specialized in rights, "so when we have nanobots that can repair a small portion of damaged neurons in Grandma's brain, we'd probably all view that as a positive development in medical science. And then, as more and more of Grandma's natural neurons fail, the nanobots can take their place, probably before anybody notices symptoms. At some point, nearly all the neurons have failed, and Grandma's brain is mostly nanotech, but nobody on the outside noticed. So, when is Grandma no longer Grandma?"

    His answer: "It sounds like you're a philosopher."

    Coming generations won't get to answer so coyly. I didn't bother with the follow-up about what happens when the nanobots can duplicate her pattern elsewhere.

    • by Chrontius (654879)
      Grandma is not "no longer Grandma" at any point in this exercise, though at some point she should consider replacing everything but that mostly-nanotech brain; she's still going to have worn-out disks and arthritis, even now that her Alzheimer's is cured; she might want to move back out of that nursing home at some point.
    • by Rhywden (1940872)

      Since every part of our body is replaced on a regular basis by our own cells, we're always not the "same" person at some point in time. The questio should rather be: "Do we view such nanotech as the equivalent to the already existing biological replacements?"

    • by jafiwam (310805)

      So, when is Grandma no longer Grandma?"

      Define "grandma"

      You are asking the wrong question. When you know what "grandma" is, then the question of "when is it not 'grandma' ?" becomes quite obvious. You'll never get to the answer if you keep asking the wrong questions.

      If you are a philosopher, you are a poor one.

      • by Triklyn (2455072)

        i'd like to know when it's not grandma too. I didn't follow you round that bend. Please elaborate.

    • by Triklyn (2455072)

      "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -Heraclitus

      not only are we constantly being replaced on the atomic level, but the damn pattern changes day by day, or physical therapists wouldn't have work.

      I've made theoretical peace with being slowly converted to a machine. It's the sudden conversions that throw me for a loop. As long as it's not a disjointed transition, and the underlying neural relationships are maintained, Grandma will always be Grand

  • Umm... the brain does this already by itself .... is this technology for people who's body somehow doesn't have that ability or lost that ability?
    • by Triklyn (2455072)

      the brain doesn't do this. what it does is try to repurpose surrounding tissue to try and reroute the signal. It's also rarely successful at this.

      • by Cammi (1956130)
        Maybe I read the article wrong. My daughter recently (in the last 2 years) had brain surgery. Major areas of her brain basically became dead. However, the brain grew new tissues to re-route the signals. Come to think of it. I must have read the article wrong.
        • by Triklyn (2455072)

          it's different for children. Unless you mean your adult daughter, in which case there must be a miscommunication somewhere. but yeah, for children, the brain literally isn't finished growing for a bit of time. Everything is kinda just malleable up to a certain point, none of the connections are really as set as in adults. there have been cases of children losing one hemisphere or the other, and growing up remarkably functional.

  • " even if we don't understand it, we can mimic it.""

    then comes understanding it, then comes manipulating it, then comes controlling it.

    who needs subliminal advertising when you can control it directly....(fry's dream of lightspeed briefs come to mind) since the brain is electrochemical, figuring out how to do this remotely shouldn't be an issue, or following this to it's natural conclusion maybe those tinfoil hats do work and we're all being zapped with the incredulous beam when considering the cries of tho

    • by Triklyn (2455072)

      understanding is kind of a big step. imagine trying to backwards engineer a piece of software from its machine code... but harder, and you're not really trying to figure out one piece of software, but the average of multiple pieces of software with the same function but which are each implemented differently.

      yeah, it's nifty, when you can read from a chunk of the visual cortex and reproduce what a test subject sees on a screen, or a monkey learns how to manipulate a mouse cursor by thinking different thou

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