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Neural Prosthetic Acts Like "Bridge" Over Damaged Brain Areas

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the spanning-the-gap dept.

Medicine 54

the_newsbeagle writes "If you can't fix it, go around it. That's the thinking behind an experimental treatment for traumatic brain injury. Using an implanted microdevice, researchers recorded the electrical signals from a sensory region of a rat's brain, skipped over a damaged brain region that typically processes sensory information, and sent the electric signals on to the premotor cortex. This cyborg mouse could then move normally. What this means is that we're getting better at speaking the brain's language — even if we don't understand it, we can mimic it."

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In other words (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644415)

Simulate what the brain already does naturally.

Re:In other words (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644807)

Can I have rough anal sex with you? I bet jizzing in your rectum would feel amazing!

Re:In other words (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45645149)

Please fuck my ass like the sissy boy am!

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45645337)

Goatse started as a joke, but it attracted all kinds of weird people.

Re:In other words (1)

oldwarrior (463580) | about 8 months ago | (#45652011)

This is just sensor interfacing. Although it does directly lead my evil twin to think about remote control adapters - same technology, different application.

Progress! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644457)

Now I just need a low-latency wifi, a jar of nutrient solution, and a freezer full of brainless clones of myself. One connected at a time, followed by a 3-week detached workout cycle, then back to the freezer.

Worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644521)

They didn't check the lesions were all in the same place.

Re:Worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644713)

I'll expand a bit on this. Study after study has been done with this model of brain injury and test of function using the reaching for sugar pellet task. It is still unexplained why some rats never recover, others recover ~50% and others ~100%. Until this is figured out it is pointless to continue testing therapies and only publishing the results if it looks like the treatment works. A rat with damage 1mm off will recover 100% on the task very quickly.

Stop Hitting Yourself! (3, Funny)

WillgasM (1646719) | about 8 months ago | (#45644573)

Stop Hitting Yourself! Stop Hitting Yourself!

Re:Stop Hitting Yourself! (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 8 months ago | (#45644751)

More like Dr. Strangelove's gloved hand.

Oh boy! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 months ago | (#45644599)

Can it help me finally "get" Prolog?

Re:Oh boy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644765)

Can it help me finally "get" Prolog?

yes

Re:Oh boy! (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 8 months ago | (#45644829)

I know you need to have brain damage to "get" Perl, I'm not sure about Prolog, though.

Re:Oh boy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45645237)

No, but you can now play the violin.

Hehe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644619)

For a moment I thought I'm playing XCom and reading one of those research reports on aliens autopsies.

Simon and Garfunkel neuroscience (1)

lyapunov (241045) | about 8 months ago | (#45644723)

The took a page from their book and made a bridge over troubled waters.

Awesome!

I watched the video. :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45644813)

I wanted to take a look at our cyborg mouse overlord, but watching the video made me sad. :(

(I was fully aware of how the research would have been conducted, and I have nothing against it since it's necessary to improve our knowledge of the brain, but it still made me sad.)

"...even if we don't understand it..." (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 8 months ago | (#45644851)

now, that's the meme for modern science.... just like quantum mechanics or particle physics. we can 'make it work', but we really don't know why. Higgs to the rescue? we still don't know. faith-based? anyone?

Re: "...even if we don't understand it..." (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 8 months ago | (#45645751)

Obviously not faith based as they were doing experiments. Faith based is reading a book and then closing your eyes.

Re:"...even if we don't understand it..." (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#45646021)

If anything, it's the opposite: Experimentally, we observe a variety of effects as we prod the black box in various ways, examine it with various clever inferential techniques, and so on. In some cases, we are able to develop reliable "If you poke it there, it does that, reliably" type rules based on repeated observation. However, our prodding of the system has not yet provided enough information to posit the underlying structure, that would unify all our disparate observations of patterns. So, we don't have one. We might have some theorists, on a parallel track, tinkering with candidate unified theories; but operationally we only have our pattern inferences.

If it were faith based, it'd be way easier: we could just posit a Grand Unified Theory, and then bodge like crazy to force any observations into agreement with it.

Instead, we start with a whole bunch of tedious empiricism, observational inference of patterns, and hope that eventually somebody comes up with something that will elegantly explain the mess. It's Newton's old "Hypotheses non fingo": He had no idea how or why universal gravitation worked the way it did; but accorded with astronomical and physical observation, so he proposed it, without any metaphysical entanglements, as a model.

Re:"...even if we don't understand it..." (2)

fractoid (1076465) | about 8 months ago | (#45646029)

And yet they talk about "even a simple act of perception or cognition". Wow. Yeah cognition is pretty simple, it's not like it's one of the greatest unsolved mysteries we have or anything.

So (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 8 months ago | (#45644853)

If you plug one electronic device into another you are mimicking their communications protocol?

Re:So (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 8 months ago | (#45646091)

Monster Cables (TM) accurately mimics your system's HDMI signals to drive your television!

Re:So (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#45647395)


If you plug one electronic device into another you are mimicking their communications protocol?

Depends if it's a switch or a hub.

The doctor's name isn't (1)

ichabod801 (3423899) | about 8 months ago | (#45644857)

Radhakrishnan, is it?

And all this for a rat?! (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 8 months ago | (#45644955)

There is still hope for mankind.

Cookie Clicker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45645033)

Please, someone hurry and post of a cookie clicker reference, I can't stand the anticipation.

Notice how much slower the rat is with the implant (the third video) than he was in the other two videos. Converting the signal and rerouting it seems to introduce some serious latency. I guess that shouldn't be surprising at all, but it is a testimate to how quickly the brain processes signals.

Bridge Over Damaged Cortex (5, Funny)

mbstone (457308) | about 8 months ago | (#45645475)

When you're dimwitted
Feeling dumb
When circuits in your brain
Make your mind go numb

I'm in your head
When dendrites are dead
And neurons can't be found
Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
Now your mind is sound
Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
Now your mind is sound

When your motor nerves
Trip you on your feet
When your amygdala fails
And can't comfort you

I'll cure your rats
Who can't get fat
When pellets are all around
Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
Now your mind is sound
Here's a bridge over damaged cortex
Now your mind is sound

This should make lesion studies more interesting.. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#45646071)

Having an implant that can 'patch over' damaged brain areas should make lesion studies more subtle and precise. They can certainly tell us something already, at least in broad strokes, about what functions go where; but it's hard to shake the question of 'if you damage area X, does function Y suffer because area X handles it, or because it depends on connectivity through area X between areas W and Q?' If we have a technique for replacing a functional area with a mere transmission line, that gives us greater ability to differentiate between an area with a functional role in some function and an area with a merely connective role (presumably, there are also areas that are mostly connective; but apply some amount of signal processing between input and output. In the future, maybe we will be able to write arbitrary signal processing filters and patch them in, in software, between the input and the output of this 'bridge' device. That'd be extra neat).

Re:This should make lesion studies more interestin (1)

Prune (557140) | about 8 months ago | (#45647421)

"Transmission line" is a technical term narrowly defined in two fields: electrical power distribution, and communications. In the latter, it's a signal-carrying structure (coax, waveguide, etc.) designed to take into account radiative losses and reflections due to the increasingly dominant with higher frequency wave-nature of the signal. Neural impulses are at orders of magnitude lower frequency, so neither fits. I could see you making an analogy with conditioning the signal during its propagation, in the case of saltatory conduction, but it's quite a stretch as the analogy really breaks down when you try to think of what would the myelin sheath and nodes of Ranvier correspond to in an actual transmission line, in functional terms.

Re:This should make lesion studies more interestin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45648077)

"Strokes"? Nice one.

Hans Moravec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45646499)

No-one's mentioned Hans Moravec yet? This is very similar to the concept he outlined years ago for uploading a human brain.

Mice will be Assimilated (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 8 months ago | (#45646659)

In other words, the Mouse Borg has begun.

Car analogy (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#45647003)

Sort of like the I-405 through Los Angeles.

Is Grandma Still Grandma? (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#45647337)

I once went to a bioethics panel on computing and neuroscience and asked the ethicist who specialized in rights, "so when we have nanobots that can repair a small portion of damaged neurons in Grandma's brain, we'd probably all view that as a positive development in medical science. And then, as more and more of Grandma's natural neurons fail, the nanobots can take their place, probably before anybody notices symptoms. At some point, nearly all the neurons have failed, and Grandma's brain is mostly nanotech, but nobody on the outside noticed. So, when is Grandma no longer Grandma?"

His answer: "It sounds like you're a philosopher."

Coming generations won't get to answer so coyly. I didn't bother with the follow-up about what happens when the nanobots can duplicate her pattern elsewhere.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45647587)

This paradox has been known for quite a while. [wikipedia.org] You do sound like a philosopher.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#45652219)

Awesome, thanks for the link.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (1)

Chrontius (654879) | about 8 months ago | (#45647627)

Grandma is not "no longer Grandma" at any point in this exercise, though at some point she should consider replacing everything but that mostly-nanotech brain; she's still going to have worn-out disks and arthritis, even now that her Alzheimer's is cured; she might want to move back out of that nursing home at some point.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (2)

Rhywden (1940872) | about 8 months ago | (#45648691)

Since every part of our body is replaced on a regular basis by our own cells, we're always not the "same" person at some point in time. The questio should rather be: "Do we view such nanotech as the equivalent to the already existing biological replacements?"

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (2)

jafiwam (310805) | about 8 months ago | (#45649571)

So, when is Grandma no longer Grandma?"

Define "grandma"

You are asking the wrong question. When you know what "grandma" is, then the question of "when is it not 'grandma' ?" becomes quite obvious. You'll never get to the answer if you keep asking the wrong questions.

If you are a philosopher, you are a poor one.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 8 months ago | (#45653643)

i'd like to know when it's not grandma too. I didn't follow you round that bend. Please elaborate.

Re:Is Grandma Still Grandma? (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 8 months ago | (#45653397)

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -Heraclitus

not only are we constantly being replaced on the atomic level, but the damn pattern changes day by day, or physical therapists wouldn't have work.

I've made theoretical peace with being slowly converted to a machine. It's the sudden conversions that throw me for a loop. As long as it's not a disjointed transition, and the underlying neural relationships are maintained, Grandma will always be Grandma.

On the other hand, would it really matter? If they thought like grandma, acted like grandma, loved you like grandma and thought they were grandma, and had all the memories of grandma, who's to say they aren't grandma? That kind of happens every night grandma goes to sleep anyway.

Umm.. brain does this already ... (1)

Cammi (1956130) | about 8 months ago | (#45647799)

Umm... the brain does this already by itself .... is this technology for people who's body somehow doesn't have that ability or lost that ability?

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45647861)

To a limited degree it does. But if the damage is extensive it is harder to route around the damage. This means that the effects of brain damage are not just limited to the loss of the use of the damaged cells but also the inability to get to other cells that may be working. Having a significant other with a TBI this is a revaluation though from from ready to go into production on humans.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45648961)

When I was a toddler, my mother stamped on my head and appears to have done significant damage to my corpus callosum. This damage never healed. This advance is for people who have that kind of damage. If it comes before I'm too old to bother with it, I may end up being relatively normal - although it may be too late for me to learn to be normal.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45653119)

For people who is body somehow doesn't have that ability? Dude, go back to the third grade, learn written English. Whose, you moron.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 8 months ago | (#45653613)

the brain doesn't do this. what it does is try to repurpose surrounding tissue to try and reroute the signal. It's also rarely successful at this.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (1)

Cammi (1956130) | about 8 months ago | (#45653699)

Maybe I read the article wrong. My daughter recently (in the last 2 years) had brain surgery. Major areas of her brain basically became dead. However, the brain grew new tissues to re-route the signals. Come to think of it. I must have read the article wrong.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 8 months ago | (#45653971)

it's different for children. Unless you mean your adult daughter, in which case there must be a miscommunication somewhere. but yeah, for children, the brain literally isn't finished growing for a bit of time. Everything is kinda just malleable up to a certain point, none of the connections are really as set as in adults. there have been cases of children losing one hemisphere or the other, and growing up remarkably functional.

Re:Umm.. brain does this already ... (1)

Cammi (1956130) | about 8 months ago | (#45654469)

Very good point. Yes, she was in third grade when she suffered an AVM.

Prequel to "Interface"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45648437)

Reminds me of "Interface" by Neal Stephenson and George Jewsbury. Scary...

Is it a rouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45649397)

Fascinating. This technique turned a injured rat into a cyborg mouse...

soon? (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | about 8 months ago | (#45654351)

" even if we don't understand it, we can mimic it.""

then comes understanding it, then comes manipulating it, then comes controlling it.

who needs subliminal advertising when you can control it directly....(fry's dream of lightspeed briefs come to mind) since the brain is electrochemical, figuring out how to do this remotely shouldn't be an issue, or following this to it's natural conclusion maybe those tinfoil hats do work and we're all being zapped with the incredulous beam when considering the cries of those who "know better".

Re:soon? (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 8 months ago | (#45654619)

understanding is kind of a big step. imagine trying to backwards engineer a piece of software from its machine code... but harder, and you're not really trying to figure out one piece of software, but the average of multiple pieces of software with the same function but which are each implemented differently.

yeah, it's nifty, when you can read from a chunk of the visual cortex and reproduce what a test subject sees on a screen, or a monkey learns how to manipulate a mouse cursor by thinking different thoughts; but true understanding doesn't involve generalizations.

reading and reproducing electrical signals, at that temporal and spatial resolution, is already at the technological limits. And i'm more amazed that the other parts of the mouse brain could make sense of what had to be pretty damn course signals. truly understanding those signals may well be beyond our limits. remember, each neuron acts as communication medium, processing unit, processing component, recording medium... everything really. the neuron probably has a parallel function for every damn component in your computer... and you've got a hundred billion of em.

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