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Biotech Medicine

Rewiring a Damaged Brain 92

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers in the Midwest are developing microelectronic circuitry to guide the growth of axons in a brain damaged by trauma. The goal is to rewire the brain connectivity and bypass the damaged region in order to restore normal behavior and movement. 'The device, which [professor Pedram Mohseni] calls a brain-machine-brain interface, includes a microchip on a circuit board smaller than a quarter. The microchip amplifies signals, called neural action potentials, produced by the neurons in one part of the brain and uses an algorithm to separate these signals — brain spike activity — from noise and other artifacts. Upon spike discrimination, the microchip sends a current pulse to stimulate neurons in another part of the brain, artificially connecting the two brain regions.'"
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Rewiring a Damaged Brain

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  • Not good enough... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpasticMutant ( 748828 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @12:30AM (#33719512) Homepage
    Too bad it's only for physical trauma. Emotional trauma is yours to keep!
  • by moozoo ( 1308855 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @01:04AM (#33719632)
    Its when you use this technology to connect two different brains that things get interesting.....
  • Re:Drain Bamage (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:18AM (#33720194)

    Just posing a question, but how could you really 'know' if you still had all your memories or not?

  • Re:Paradox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpasticMutant ( 748828 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:52AM (#33720308) Homepage

    "researchers foresee the possibility of using the approach in patients 10 years from now."

    How can medical research move so fast and so slow at the SAME TIME?

    That's easy. It's all about the funding. Now some VC will sink a ton of money into this, after which the pace will slow to glacial while they await regulatory approval. Right about when they need more money, they'll announce another breakthrough, or something favorable enough to secure more funding. Eventually some newer idea will knock this one off its pedestal, or they'll ship a product and get bought out by a large pharmaceutical or medical device company. The doctors and engineers will be free to repeat the cycle once their options have vested.

  • Re:Except, No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:05AM (#33720350)
    I disagree. AFAIK, there are many natural healing processes in the human body that can be accelerated with external stimulation. Can't be bothered to find examples now, but fairly certain that it's true. It I am indeed right, then it's not unreasonable to expect that a similar approach can speed up healing in the brain.

    Regarding your claim about the formation of 'neuromas', I don't see how you can be so certain that that would be the result of the treatment in question. What evidence could you possibly have, considering this is a brand-new idea?
  • Re:Except, No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:05AM (#33720352)

    The brain already does this itself. It's called neural plasticity. If they brain can do it, it will. If it can't, sticking wires into it and applying shocks and other intrusions and insults is not going to make it happen. Not properly anyway.

    That makes just as much sense as saying that "the body heals cuts naturally, so stitching flesh together is not going to fix anything, not properly anyhow".

  • Re:Paradox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe Tie. ( 567096 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:30AM (#33720460)
    The regulatory aspects in particular are why I never get too excited by things like this.
  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @06:28AM (#33720806)

    The potential of this is incredible. If this technology is ever fully developed, it would allow you to do something much more interesting than connecting 2 portions of damaged brain. There's no reason a powerful computer cluster couldn't simulate a portion of brain tissue and "stand in" as fake neurons on the other side of the link.

    If the simulation were accurate enough, it would be possible for the patient to train the simulated brain tissue to mimic the original. Recovering stroke patients do this all the time. In the human brain, somehow one portion of the brain can train another portion and can smoothly distribute information around. So in principle, the computer simulation's neurons could gradually be coded with some of the skills of the person connected.

    This would put us a LOT closer to real artificial intelligence, because we would now be able to see what is actually going on in a working area of human neural tissue. Do this on enough patients, and you'd have electronic analogues of most of the brain.

    And the cool part : it might be possible someday to gradually replace a person's brain entirely through a series of surgeries and installing more and more microchips followed by a recovery and training period. You might be able to capture enough of a person's memories, personalities, and skills that the computer simulation would be capable of learning new abilities like the original person and passing the turing test.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @06:29AM (#33720812)

    Does that area grow, or do only people with a large area become good taxi drivers?

  • Re:Paradox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amorymeltzer ( 1213818 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @11:01AM (#33722500)

    The regulatory aspects in particular are why I never get too excited by things like this.

    "Regulatory aspects?" It's Rewiring a Damaged Brain - literally brain surgery with some chip-building tossed in. Yes there are regulations, but progress is slow because it is hard to find brains to screw around with. This is not a process you take lightly.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.