Redundancy is arriving to commercial electrical circuits. A circuit, reminiscent of neural computation, enables backup circuitry to be engaged when main functioning breaks.
The National Football League and GE announced a $60 million effort to speed up research into brain injuries and the development of new technologies to help protect the brain from traumatic injury to benefit athletes, the military and the broader public.
The initiative includes a $40 million research program into imaging technologies to improve diagnoses and an additional $20 million pool of funds open to researchers and businesses trying to improve the prevention, identification and management of brain injuries.
A proposed effort to map brain activity on a large scale, expected to be announced by the White House later this month, could help neuroscientists understand the origins of cognition, perception, and other phenomena. These brain activities haven’t been well understood to date, in part because they arise from the interaction of large sets of neurons whose coordinated efforts scientists cannot currently track.
An article published Thursday in Science online expands the project’s already ambitious goals beyond just recording the activity of all individual neurons in a brain circuit simultaneously. Researchers should also find ways to manipulate the neurons within those circuits and understand circuit function through new methods of data analysis and modeling.
Electrically stimulating the brain may improve memory, but impede with a person’s ability to react without thinking.
The approach has previously been shown to enhance various brain functions, including working memory and attention, and is being used to help stroke patients regain lost language and motor skills (see “Repairing the Stroke-Damaged Brain”). But until now, little research had been done on whether improving performance on one task would come at the detriment of others.
Johns Hopkins engineers have developed a powerful new computer-based process that helps identify the dangerous conditions that lead to concussion-related brain injuries.
Professor K.T. Ramesh led a team that used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging, together with a computer model of the head, to identify injured axons, which are tiny but important fibers that carry information from one brain cell to another. These axons are concentrated in a kind of brain tissue known as “white matter,” and they appear to be injured during the so-called mild traumatic brain injury associated with concussions. Ramesh’s team has shown that the axons are injured most easily by strong rotations of the head, and the researchers’ process can calculate which parts of the brain are most likely to be injured during a specific event.
The possibility of confusing causation and correlation in fMRI analysis is explored.
“This study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” study author Kerry O’Banion, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a statement.
Startup Interaxon has announced that it will ship a $199 headset called the Muse next spring. It will let people use their brainwaves to directly control videogames and other computing operations.
The market for brain health technology will surpass $1 billion by the end of 2012, and is set to grow at a brisk thereafter, to between $4 and $10 billion by 2020.
Technologies in demand include computerized Web-based and mobile cognitive assessments, cognitive training and cognitive behavioral therapies, and biometrics-based monitoring and brain training tools that measure physiological responses such as heart rate variability and electroencephalography.
A new device will let scientists create complex patterns of activity within the brain using optogenetics. The goal is to boost the amount of information and control that current systems deliver. It could also give more flexibility to optogenetics based neural prostheses.