Our brains have a lot of problems that need to be solved — now. And neurotechnology is a hot field. But what knowledge and skills do you study if you want to be a neurotechnologist? What problems are important, but also tractable within a reasonable timeframe? And, can you survive while climbing this possibly-very-high mountain?
A team of three academics at MIT and the University of Hong Kong is launching an international collaboration to create a set of novel courses to address this need. The first one, Neurotechnology Ventures, is being taught in Spring 2007 and focuses on neurotechnologies that are close to solving major human problems. The class explores the problems that neurotechnologists encounter when envisioning, planning, and building startups to bring neuroengineering innovations to the world.
Emphasizing the global nature of any modern neurotechnology, Neurotechnology Ventures will be videoconferenced between the U.S. and China, which is increasingly becoming a major neurotechnology player (including some very daring and scientifically interesting developments in fields such as human spinal cord regenerative medicine). Information will be posted online as the class evolves dynamically, to the web site HTTP://Neuroven.Media.MIT.edu. The goal is to open up this new field to the world, and see if we can solve the major problems of the brain in an open and efficient way.
A controversial paper proposed that sodium channels are not statistically independent when they open and close. This may have implications for the speed of neural computation.
Brain stimulation and depression has been one of the hot topics of the last decade. Now, a Washington Post story suggests that at least some of this may be overrated, at least for the NeuroStar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device from Neuronetics:
A novel machine designed to treat depression by zapping the brain with magnetic pulses shows no clear evidence of working, federal health advisers concluded Friday.
The device is called the Neurostar TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, system. It uses magnetic energy to induce electrical currents in the region of the brain associated with mood…
A clinical trial of the device provided results that, in one analysis, suggested it’s no better than sham treatment, according to FDA documents.”
Going to be a long slog. TMS *has* been approved for treating depression in Canada and Israel, for the company NeoPulse.
Spindle cells, a type of cell previously thought to be found only in great apes, have been found in large whales. Spindle cells are also called Von Economo neurons.
“smokers with brain damage involving the insula … were more likely than smokers with brain damage not involving the insula to … quit smoking easily, immediately, without relapse, and without persistence of the urge to smoke” One subject reported that after his stroke, “my body forgot the urge to smoke”.
Nature has always been a source of inspiration for science problem solving….Both the techniques based in cell or natural organisms performance, as well as those based on evolutionary theories, have a wide success record when applied to real problems…. we are in the process of editing the “Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence ” that will provide comprehensive coverage and definitions of the most important issues, concepts, trends and technologies in Artificial Intelligence.
This paper describes some stuff that UCLA is doing with their neuroengineering program. Of particular interest is an ongoing project to develop networks of miniature wireless computers (“motes”) to support wireless MEA recording and stimulation (within section B, ” Improving Headstages for BCI Systems”).
The system is being built with Mica nodes, which are mesh-networking sensor motes about the size of a U.S. quarter, but I’m not sure if they are using mesh networking in this project. More details here.