Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

An 'OFF' Switch For The Brain

An "OFF" switch for the brain uses light pulses to shut down neural activity. The method uses the research of Stanford scientist Karl Deisseroth, who discovered how to switch individual brain cells on and off by using light - 'optogenetics'.


(An off switch - for the brain)
In the upper left opsin, the red color shows negative charges
spanning the opsin that facilitated the flow of positive (stimulatory) ions
through the channel into neurons. In the newly engineered channels
(lower right), those negative charges have been changed to positive (blue),
allowing the negatively charged inhibitory chloride ions to flow through.

Now, after almost a decade of research, scientists have been able to shut down the neurons as well as activate them.

Mr Deisseroth’s team has now re-engineered its light-sensitive proteins to switch cells much more adequately than before. His findings are presented in the journal Science.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study, said this improved “off” switch will help researchers to better understand the brain circuits involved in behavior, thinking and emotion.

“We’re excited about this increased light sensitivity of inhibition in part because we think it will greatly enhance work in large-brained organisms like rats and primates."

The new techniques rely on changing 10 of the amino acids in the optogenetic protein.

“It creates a powerful tool that allows neuroscientists to apply a brake in any specific circuit with millisecond precision, beyond the power of any existing technology,” Mr Insel explained.

This technique could help scientists develop treatments for patients with some brain diseases as it could allow problematic parts of the brain to be switched off with light and tackled with minimal intrusion.

Fans of sf great John Brunner may recall the data-retrieval mode used to access the memories of Nickie Haflinger in Brunner's 1975 masterpiece The Shockwave Rider. In the story, the subject could be "turned on" or "turned off" using this method.

The man in the bare steel chair was as naked as the room's white walls... Tiny adhesive pads held sensors in position at a dozen places on his scalp...

From each sensor a lead, fine as gossamer, ran to the... data analysis console...

Not looking up, the girl in white plastic said, "Yes, sir, he's status go."

She headed for the door. Taking a seat at Freeman's invitation, Hartz said doubtfully, "Don't you have to give him a shot or something? He looks pretty thoroughly sedated."

Settling comfortably in his own chair adjacent to the data console, Freeman said, "No, it's not a question of drugs. It's done with induced current in the motor centers. One of our specialties, you know. All I have to do is move this switch and he'll recover consciousness - though not, of course, the power of ambulation. Just enough to let him answer in adequate detail. By the way, before I turn him on, I should fill in what's happening..."

From The Independent.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/2/2014)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Medical ")

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.' - Robert Heinlein, 1956

Brainoware Reservoir Computation Of Biological Neural Networks
'Head cheese. Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

Forward CarePod The AI Doctor's Office
'It's an old model,' Rawlins said. 'I'm not sure what to do.'

Octopus Suckers Inspire Transdermal Patches
'...a capsule which he placed against his wrist.' - Philip K. Dick, 1960.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

SliceIt! Why Not Teach Robots To Use Knives?
'One building now gushed forth smoke and another stench that was unmistakable.'

NYC/Dublin Portal Fails To Meet 'Guardian Of Forever' Standards
I am the Guardian of Forever.

FLOAT Levitating Train On The Moon ala Clarke
'The low-slung monorail car, straddling its single track, bored through the shadows on a slowly rising course.'

Singapore Writers Push Back On LLM Training
'...we've promised him a generous pension from the royalties.'

SpaceX Intros Extravehicular Activity Suit
'Provision had been made to meet the terrific cold which we knew would be encountered the moment we had passed beyond the atmosphere.'

Athena Smart Security Guard Robot With Face Recognition
'You are who we say you are, Dr. Dakin,' Turner said.'

The FLUTE Project - A Huge Liquid Mirror In Space
'It's area, and its consequent light-gathering capacity, was many times greater than any rigid mirror...'

Robot Preachers Found To Undermine Religious Commitment
'Tell me your torments,' the Padre said, in an elderly voice marked with compassion.

CyberCab - Tesla Renames The Robotaxi
'A cybercab dogged their heels...'

SpaceHopper Microgravity Robot Lands On Its Feet
'...a slender-legged tripod surmounted by a spherical body no larger than a football.'

Brin's 1990 Novel Earth Still Full Of Predictions
'... making the point that their likenesses, every move they made, were being transmitted.'

'Whisper Mode' ala Blue Thunder Researched At Bristol
'Forest Lawn.'

Gaia - Why Stop With Just The Earth?
'But the stars are only atoms in larger space, and in that larger space the star-atoms could combine to form living matter, thinking matter, couldn't they?'

Microsoft VASA-1 Creates Personal Video From A Photo
'...to build up a video picture would require, say, ten million decisions every second. Mike, you're so fast I can't even think about it. But you aren't that fast.'

Splendid View Of Eclipse From Orbit Visualized And Repurposed By Arthur C. Clarke
'The area affected was five hundred kilometres across, and perfectly circular.'

Bespoke Environment Music From AIs
'Call 'em Winter Mute," said the other, making it two words.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.