Category Archives: Brain

Brain-Based Technology of the Future

Brain-Based Technology of the Future

The brain’s natural complexity is the primary reason it is difficult to study. Experts contend the largest challenge facing neurosciences is that the basics of the discipline remain largely unknown. Fortunately, academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other prominent US universities suggest the Convergence in Healthcare movement may hold the key to helping medical researchers unlock the brain.

In a 2016 whitepaper, MIT researchers defined Convergence in Healthcare as “the integration of insights and approaches from historically distinct scientific and technological disciplines,” specifically chemistry, engineering, physics, life science, mathematics, computing and IT. Convergence in biomedicine, especially the integration of life science and technology, has led to the development of tools that may change how we prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses of the brain.

Listed are a few of the many promising neuroscience technologies that have arisen with the assistance of convergent research.

 

Mind map

BRAINConvergent research conducted by programs such as the National Institutes of Health Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative aims to provide a catalog of the brain’s different cell types, as well as develop a map to understand how neurons are connected and fit together. While the concept seems simple, mapping the brain actually poses a serious challenge for researchers due to the organ’s extreme density.

To explore new ways to map and research connections and form within the brain, scientists developed a tool named CLARITY, which uses a combination of molecule-bonding hydrogel and detergents to preserve the whole of the brain’s structure and render it transparent. This gives scientists the ability to study neural connections over long distances within the tissues.

 

Neural dust

Though the primary research goal of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to create innovative technologies to aid national security, much of its innovative research intersects with the needs and aims of the healthcare sector. One example is the convergent research project focused on a brain implant many researchers are calling “neural dust.” The project involves the development of electrode-containing microdevices capable of detecting the electrochemical signals put out by neurons in the brain. For DARPA, the goal is to create a brain implant to facilitate the transmission of information digitally to the world outside a person’s mind. For medical scientists, neural dust could be a crucial tool in deciphering neural coding.

The medical use of neural dust centers on engineering the particles to receive signals from outside to direct them to fire in specific ways. For example, if scientists are able to identify the neural code for a condition or ailment rooted in the brain, such as paralysis, they could deploy neural dust to stimulate the affected nerve with the exact code to restore movement to the affected limb.

 

Bioprinting brain matter

While stem cell research advances more each year, generating tissue and structures for even the simplest human organs remains a challenge. As the brain is the body’s most complex organ, it is easy to imagine how complex the process would be to create even a miniaturized version of it. However, thanks to convergent research, scientists are finding they may be able to do exactly that.

Through the combined efforts of life science and technology, scientists used a 3-D printer loaded with human stem cells to “bioprint” a brain-like tissue. Though not as impressive as the printing of an entire miniature brain, scientists see this ability to 3-D print tissue as a major development in the treatment of illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and epilepsy, as well as brain injury. Cells taken from a patient’s body could be used to print replacement tissues for areas of the brain damaged by illness without the risk of tissue rejection.

 

Brain monitors

The life sciences also harnessed the power of technology to explore the creation of implantable sensors capable of monitoring health conditions in the mind. Convergent research previously resulted in the development of devices to both recognize and respond to the symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

This year, researchers developed a new brain sensor that can be adhered to flow diverters in patients treated for brain aneurysms. The sensor monitors the efficiency of blood flow through the diverter and could significantly reduce a physician’s reliance on costly testing after the diverter has been implanted.

The True Value of Technology in the Convergence in Healthcare Movement

The True Value of Technology in the Convergence in Healthcare Movement

The Convergence in Healthcare movement is rooted in the integration of skilled professionals from a collection of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors, including life sciences, physical sciences, chemistry and computing. Academic leaders and other pundits in the medical field believe the best opportunity for innovation in medicine is the reinvention of the traditional… Continue Reading

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

America has a large number of medical research facilities employing top scientists. However, the U.S. government’s funding of life-saving research programs has declined in the past 15 years. The traditional scientific research model is failing to innovate at a pace to meet global health needs. Without a new approach, the U.S. medical research community is… Continue Reading

Five Things to Know about the BRAIN Initiative

Five Things to Know about the BRAIN Initiative

In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-sponsored report “Convergence: The Future of Health,” American academic leaders outlined the forthcoming impact of the Convergence in Healthcare revolution on the United States healthcare industry. Best defined as an intersectional approach to research between members of the life science, physical science, mathematics, computing and chemistry sectors, the Convergence in… Continue Reading

Convergence in Healthcare and Mental Health: What You Need to Know

Convergence in Healthcare and Mental Health: What You Need to Know

According to the National Institutes of Health, neuropsychiatric disorders are the foremost cause of disability among Americans, incurring even more disability claims than circulatory and cardiovascular diseases. Neuropsychiatric disorders encompass a wide range of conditions related to mental and behavioral health, as well as neurological disorders, though mental and behavioral illnesses are responsible for a… Continue Reading

What You Need to Know about Convergence in Healthcare and Disorders of the Brain

What You Need to Know about Convergence in Healthcare and Disorders of the Brain

A 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) report revealed as many as one in four people around the world may experience a mental or neurological disorder in a lifetime. Research conducted by The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that in the United States alone, at least one in four people over age 18 will develop… Continue Reading