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Advanced Technologies for Rewiring the Brain

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Pamela Barnett

on 11 September 2016

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Transcript of Advanced Technologies for Rewiring the Brain

Advanced Technologies for Rewiring the Brain
Sensory Substitution
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
A non-invasive method of studying the brain
Deep Brain Stimulation
Neuroimaging for Pain Management
Neuroimaging includes various techniques that create images of the brain's structure, function, chemistry
Light Therapy for Neuromodulation
Don't forget!
Frontiers in Neuroscience
In very recent decades, modern technologies, including brain imaging machines, have enabled scientists to observe both the structures and the functions of the living brain
Genes, Neuromodulation & Neuroplasticity
Each cell in our body contains all our genes, stored in its nucleus
Paul Bach-y-Rita's prototypes led to high-tech devices like BrainPort
the template function
There are two gene functions
A "turned on" gene makes a protein that enables the growth of new connections between neurons
Turned-on Genes
the transcription function
Instructions or information about how to make these proteins is "transcribed" from the individual gene

Intervention strategies and therapies aimed at turning our genes on and off are based on this aspect of brain plasticity
Innovators like Paul Bach-y-Rita engineered prototypes that were later improved by advanced technologies
Located in our inner ear, it is the sensory organ for our balance
Restoring balance
Helping the blind to see
Bach-y-Rita engineered the original sensory substitute for the visual system (Nature 1969)
a hat equipped with a sensor to detect movement
The three components of Bach-y-Rita's artificial vestibular
Restores vestibular balance
BrainPort Device
from prototype
to high-tech
sensory substitution
Cheryl Schiltz wearing hat and tongue display
a computer monitor that translated movement onto a map
a tongue display equipped with electrodes to send signals to the brain
But not all our genes are expressed, i.e. "turned on"
beyond our control
allows our genes to copy themselves and pass from generation to generation
is plastic
is influenced by what we think and do
turns genes "on" or "off"
used to map the brain
also used therapeutically
e.g., to treat depression
hand-held or part of a machine
A coil of copper wire encased in plastic
TMS produces a magnetic field which travels through the cranium
it induces an electrical current to cause neurons to fire or not fire
TMS provides a way to inhibit or excite neurons
TMS may be used to turn on an area of the brain
or it may be used to block an area of the brain from functioning
What is TMS?
How does TMS work?
used to treat brain-related problems
Involves a surgical procedure to insert a brain pacemaker
the pulse generator sends an electric impulse to the brain
electrodes are embedded in the area of the brain determined by the physician
How Does Deep Brain Stimulation Work?
The surgeon implants
a pulse generator, also called a neurostimulator
connecting wires
the electrical impulse is determined by the physician
Neuroimaging therapy measures the brain's activity - in real time - to help patients learn to control brain activity and manage chronic pain
How Does Neuroimaging Therapy Work?
Neuroimaging measures the brain's activity
live action
in real time
second by second
They try to learn how to understand and control their brain activity
Patients see the physical process associated with their chronic pain
The try to reduce pain by reversing the process in their brain
Gate Control Theory of Pain
the brain does not passively receive input about pain
it controls pain signals along a series of "gates"
pain messages travel from the site of the injury to the spinal cord
the brain may "open a gate" to let pain signals through
i.e., allow certain neurons to turn on and transmit their pain signals
OR the brain may "close a gate"
Neuromodulators & Neuromodulation
Neuromodulators are brain chemicals that affect how neurons respond to messages received from other neurons
They strengthen the excitatory or inhibitory responses of the receptors
In other words, they increase or decrease the overall effectiveness of the synaptic connections
Neuromodulation increases or decreases the overall effectiveness of the synaptic connections between neurons
Neuromodulation light therapies, called optogenetics, use light in the brain
to turn genes on or off
to control neuron activity
Neuromodulation therapies include TMS and deep brain stimulation
Light sensitive proteins are inserted into neurons
Light signals from hair-thin fiber-optic strands implanted in the brain turn neurons on or off
His inventions are the foundation of modern sensory substitution devices
Explains the plasticity or changeable nature of our senses
If a sense or part of the brain is damaged, another undamaged part of the brain is usually able to process signals previously processed by the damaged area
The vestibular apparatus
Gives us our sense of orientation in space
Detects motion in the horizontal plane, the vertical plane, and movement that is backward and forward
From prototype to high tech
All living beings have genes
Genes determine what is organism is like, its appearance, how it survives, and how it behaves in the environment
Genes lie in long strands of DNA called chromosomes
Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes i.e. 46
Genes carry long combinations of the codes ACGT, which are four different chemicals (nucleotide bases)
A gene is a tiny section of a long DNA strand
A gene has instructions encoded that allow a cell to produce a specific product, e.g. protein, that triggers one precise action
What are genes?
from Medical News Today 14 Sept 2014
Optogenetics research studies how light might be used to heal the brain
Optogenitics research is still experimental
deep brain stimulation is used to treat treatment-resistant disorders
chronic pain
movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson's)
i.e., release endorphins to block the pain signal
How is chronic pain different from acute pain?
Full transcript