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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?' - Edward Page Mitchell, 1879.
How Deep Learning And AI Will Affect Health Care
'A sort of satchel with an orifice in the top from which two metallic tentacles protruded slightly.' - Gordon R. Dickson, 1965.
DxtER! Tricorder Prize Won By Final Frontier Medical Devices
We've been waiting a long time for this, Star Trek fans.
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.' - Frank Herbert, 1976.
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.
Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'
NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'
ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'
Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'
Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'
Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'
Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'
Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.
NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'
Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.
Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'
MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'
Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'
WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'
Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories