The real-life Mind-Matrix…

Mail on LineThe real-life Matrix: MIT researchers reveal interface that can allow a computer to plug into the brain 

brain control

  • System could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain
  • Could lead to devices for treatment of conditions such as Parkinson’s

It has been the holy grail of science fiction – an interface that allows us to plug our brain into a computer.

Now, researchers at MIT have revealed new fibres less than a width of a hair that could make it a reality.

They say their system that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with electrical readouts to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs.

Christina Tringides, a senior at MIT and member of the research team, holds a sample of the multifunction fiber that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with electrical readouts to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs.

Christina Tringides, a senior at MIT and member of the research team, holds a sample of the multifunction fiber that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with electrical readouts to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs.

HOW IT WORKS

The new fibers are made of polymers that closely resemble the characteristics of neural tissues.

The multifunction fiber that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with electrical readouts to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs.

Combining the different channels could enable precision mapping of neural activity, and ultimately treatment of neurological disorders, that would not be possible with single-function neural probes.

‘We’re building neural interfaces that will interact with tissues in a more organic way than devices that have been used previously,’ said MIT’s Polina Anikeeva, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

The human brain’s complexity makes it extremely challenging to study not only because of its sheer size, but also because of the variety of signaling methods it uses simultaneously.

Conventional neural probes are designed to record a single type of signaling, limiting the information that can be derived from the brain at any point in time.

Now researchers at MIT may have found a way to change that.

By producing complex fibers that could be less than the width of a hair, they have created a system that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with simultaneous electrical readout to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs.

The newC technology is described in a paper in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The new fibers are made of polymers that closely resemble the characteristics of neural tissues, Anikeeva says, allowing them to stay in the body much longer without harming the delicate tissues around them.

To do that, her team made use of novel fiber-fabrication technology pioneered by MIT professor of materials science Yoel Fink and his team, for use in photonics and other applications.

The result, Anikeeva explains, is the fabrication of polymer fibers ‘that are soft and flexible and look more like natural nerves.’

Devices currently used for neural recording and stimulation, she says, are made of metals, semiconductors, and glass, and can damage nearby tissues during ordinary movement.

‘It’s a big problem in neural prosthetics,’ Anikeeva says.

The result, Anikeeva explains, is the fabrication of polymer fibers 'that are soft and flexible and look more like natural nerves.'

HOW IT WORKS 

The new fibers are made of polymers that closely resemble the characteristics of neural tissues.

The multifunction fiber that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with electrical readouts to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs. 

Combining the different channels could enable precision mapping of neural activity, and ultimately treatment of neurological disorders, that would not be possible with single-function neural probes.

‘We’re building neural interfaces that will interact…

‘They are so stiff, so sharp — when you take a step and the brain moves with respect to the device, you end up scrambling the tissue.’

The key to the technology is making a larger-scale version, called a preform, of the desired arrangement of channels within the fiber: optical waveguides to carry light, hollow tubes to carry drugs, and conductive electrodes to carry electrical signals.

These polymer templates, which can have dimensions on the scale of inches, are then heated until they become soft, and drawn into a thin fiber, while retaining the exact arrangement of features within them.

A single draw of the fiber reduces the cross-section of the material 200-fold, and the process can be repeated, making the fibers thinner each time and approaching nanometer scale.

During this process, Anikeeva says, ‘Features that used to be inches across are now microns.’

Combining the different channels in a single fiber, she adds, could enable precision mapping of neural activity, and ultimately treatment of neurological disorders, that would not be possible with single-function neural probes.

For example, light could be transmitted through the optical channels to enable optogenetic neural stimulation, the effects of which could then be monitored with embedded electrodes.

Combining the different channels in a single fiber, she adds, could enable precision mapping of neural activity, and ultimately treatment of neurological disorders, that would not be possible with single-function neural probes.

Combining the different channels in a single fiber, she adds, could enable precision mapping of neural activity, and ultimately treatment of neurological disorders, that would not be possible with single-function neural probes.

At the same time, one or more drugs could be injected into the brain through the hollow channels, while electrical signals in the neurons are recorded to determine, in real time, exactly what effect the drugs are having.

MIT researchers discuss their novel implantable device that can deliver optical signals and drugs to the brain, without harming the brain tissue.

The system can be tailored for a specific research or therapeutic application by creating the exact combination of channels needed for that task. ‘You can have a really broad palette of devices,’ Anikeeva says.

While a single preform a few inches long can produce hundreds of feet of fiber, the materials must be carefully selected so they all soften at the same temperature.

The fibers could ultimately be used for precision mapping of the responses of different regions of the brain or spinal cord, Anikeeva says, and ultimately may also lead to long-lasting devices for treatment of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering and of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who was not involved in this research, says, ‘These authors describe a fascinating, diverse collection of multifunctional fibers, tailored for insertion into the brain where they can stimulate and record neural behaviors through electrical, optical, and fluidic means.

The results significantly expand the toolkit of techniques that will be essential to our development of a basic understanding of brain function.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2927410/The-real-life-Matrix-MIT-researchers-reveal-interface-allow-computer-plug-brain.html#ixzz3Q9lDVQv4

Scientists at MIT replicate brain activity with chip,,,

BBC

Scientists at MIT replicate brain activity with chip

A graphic of a brain
17 November 2011  at 20:42 GMT
The chip replicates how information flows around the brain

Scientists are getting closer to the dream of creating computer systems that can replicate the brain.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a computer chip that mimics how the brain’s neurons adapt in response to new information.

Such chips could eventually enable communication between artificially created body parts and the brain.

It could also pave the way for artificial intelligence devices.

There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain, each of which forms synapses – the connections between neurons that allow information to flow – with many other neurons.

This process is known as plasticity and is believed to underpin many brain functions, such as learning and memory.

Neural functions

The MIT team, led by research scientist Chi-Sang Poon, has been able to design a computer chip that can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse.

Activity in the synapses relies on so-called ion channels which control the flow of charged atoms such as sodium, potassium and calcium.

The ‘brain chip’ has about 400 transistors and is wired up to replicate the circuitry of the brain.

Current flows through the transistors in the same way as ions flow through ion channels in a brain cell.

“We can tweak the parameters of the circuit to match specific ions channels… We now have a way to capture each and every ionic process that’s going on in a neuron,” said Mr Poon.

Neurobiologists seem to be impressed.

It represents “a significant advance in the efforts to incorporate what we know about the biology of neurons and synaptic plasticity onto …chips,” said Dean Buonomano, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California.

“The level of biological realism is impressive,” he added.

The team plans to use their chip to build systems to model specific neural functions, such as visual processing.

Such systems could be much faster than computers which take hours or even days to simulate a brain circuit. The chip could ultimately prove to be even faster than the biological process.

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