UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — It is not known whether we will live to see the creation of cyborgs, but our children, most likely, yes. Scientists are not in vain creating an increasingly detailed map of the brain, it’s time to find it more than a diagnostic application.
Nanoelectronics already exists that looks, moves and works like real neurons . Specialists say such implants, hidden in the brain, will provide the best way to treat Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, or even improve cognitive abilities.
In an article in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Sean Patel, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and Charles Lieber, a professor at Joshua University, and Beth Friedman, argue that neuro-technology is on the verge of a major breakthrough. Scientists have long combined disciplines to solve problems that go beyond a particular field. And now the fruits are ripe.
“The closest border is the fusion of human cognition with machines,” Patel says.
By itself, controlling the electrical activity of the brain is nothing new. So, for decades, doctors have been using electrodes implanted in the brain to alleviate tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
During implantation, patients with Parkinson’s disease are awake, so surgeons can calibrate electrical impulses. “You can watch from the spot as a person regains control of his limbs,” Patel admires, “It amazes me.”
But modern sensors are limited due to their size and inflexibility. “The brain is soft, and the implants are rigid,” Patel continues, “In addition, each electrode looks like a pencil. He is big”.
Large electrodes sometimes act, if not like an elephant in a china shop, then like a bear, definitely. They stimulate more areas than planned, sometimes causing serious side effects such as speech impairment.
In addition, over time, the immune system of the brain perceives rigid implants as foreign objects: glial brain cells absorb a potential invader, while displacing or even killing native neurons and reducing the ability of the device to support treatment.
But about four years ago, when Sean Patel first discovered the super-flexible alternatives of Charles M. Lieber and realized: “here it is – the future of brain-machine interfaces!”
The mesh (mesh) electronics of Lieber in size corresponds to brain neurons and almost does not cause an immune response due to its cellular and subcellular characteristics and bending stiffness, which is natural for the brain.
In close long-term proximity to living neurons, such implants are able to collect very accurate information about neural interactions during health and illness, building a communication map of the brain at the cellular level.
Mesh electronics can be configured to treat any neurological disorder. Scientists have already demonstrated how such implants direct newborn neurons to areas damaged by stroke.
“The potential is absolutely outstanding,” Patel says, “I see prospects at the level of what once began with a transistor or telecommunications.”
Adaptive electrodes can provide incredibly accurate control over prostheses or even paralyzed limbs. They can act as neural substitutes, repairing damaged neural chains using neurobiological control.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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