Injectable brain implants to solve the mystery of Alzheimer’s

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By Ziye Wang
@atoziye
Jul 09, 2015,  11:51 PM

Scientists at Harvard University have recently invented a device ─ a brain chip of sorts  ─  that may take us one step closer to fully understanding the interplay of neurons and how these neurons translate to higher, cognitive processes like emotion and thought. Most notably, this research may hold the key to finally unlocking the secret to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  

The paper on the implant, published in Nature Nanotechnology, outlines the intricacies of the implant: a soft, polymer mesh studded with electronic parts, which, when injected into the brain of a mouse, unfurls like a web, latching and entangling itself amongst the network of neurons. Through this injection, neuronal activity can be tracked, mapped and even manipulated. Prior brain implants had difficulty coinciding peacefully with the brain tissue, but the soft, silk-like properties of the polymer mesh has laid that issue to rest.   

So far, this technique has only been successful on anesthetized mice. Even though tracking the activity of neurons becs trickier when the mice are awake and moving, this research offers a promising start to learning more about the brain. According to Jens Schouenborg (who was not involved with the project), a professor of Neuroscience at Lund University in Sweden, “There is huge potential for techniques that can study the activity of large numbers of neurons for a long period of time with only minimal damage.”<span"> 

The brain is an unfathomable, complex organ. The activity within the brain’s vast, neural networks has provided the cornerstone for our species’ development. We owe a lot to the brain; however, there’s still an awful lot we don’t really know about the wonders achieved through this 3 pound lump of meat between our ears.  
Impact (ONLY use the 'Paste From Word' button to safely copy and paste text from a Word doc) 

Guaranteeing safety and long-term biological compatibility within the mice will be necessary before any experiments can be done on humans. If and when long-term, biological compatibility is achieved, could the rise of cybernetic human beings be a possibility? As part of a broader initiative to map the brain and cure devastating neurological conditions – including brain implants – will play a crucial role in deepening our knowledge of the brain.

Public Release Date: 
2030
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