We are probably familiar with movies such as The Matrix, Avatar or the more recent Source Code, where scientists used bio-technology fused with the brain to carry out certain complex functions. Life does imitate art as real-life scientists are continuously researching new ways for humans to interact with machines via neurological responses.
One day, researchers will be able to design prosthetic limbs that respond to brain signals. People are already asking questions such as this, “Will brain scans allow researchers to be able to read another person’s thoughts someday?”
As technological advancements in neuroscience continue to pave way for innovations, common neurological challenges in the past will be addressed. Certain examples include technologies used to trace the connection between the 100 billion nerve cells in humans, or the decoding of patterns of activity in neural circuits, and the ability to activate cells with light. These studies are helping scientists understand the interaction between brain and the nervous system in new ways.
New technologies are also instrumental in the diagnosis and treatment brain diseases or psychiatric illnesses. It expands their options and opens a new door of hope for patients. For instance, researchers at Neuropace are testing therapies to test and understand epilepsy. Likewise, other technology companies are looking treatment of defective genes responsible for brain-related conditions.
Technology and Brain Diseases
At a recent event, neurologist and Eli Lily and Company’s Distinguished Medical Fellow, Dr. Eric Siemers, discussed the complexities of the human brain through his research. His work focuses on the treatment Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
According to Dr. Siemers, humans previously had to study the brain under a microscope to understand what was happening within. “Today, with new technologies available, we can understand how the circuits in the brain cells work in real time. Something we couldn’t never have done fifteen years ago,” he says.
Dr. Siemers draws our attention to the value of technological advancements in biomarkers, MRIs and PET scan machines that transform the diagnostic process and eventually, disease treatment.
In the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, PET scans allow researchers to study amyloid plaques which can be detected as early as 15 to 20 years prior to when patients start showing symptoms. Besides, Alzheimer’s disease, there are other conditions which are currently being addressed with the use of modern technology.
New technologies that will change the face of neurological and psychiatric treatment
Stem cell therapy for repairing and replenishing brain cells
Stem cells are currently being used to in replacement and protective therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. This heralds positive news for sufferers of conditions like Parkinson’s disease, amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Smart brain prosthetics
Brain devices that can be planted in the brain are being tested to discover mechanical solutions for relieving depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury. It can also be used to restore the movement in individuals with serious physical limitations.
This is a perfect example of devices being used to further the advancement of neural engineering, which aims to influence brain signals to correct neurological impairments and treat psychiatric diseases.
Quick Intervention for Psychiatric Conditions
A new range of technologies are showing promise for the cure of acute resistant depression, including medical gases, ketamine and low-field magnetic stimulation therapy. These therapies are an opportunity to rapidly stabilise and treat some of the most rampant and severe psychiatric conditions.
The Assurance of Focused Ultrasound
Transcranial MRI-guided focused ultrasound and focused ultrasound, together with microbubbles make it possible for doctors to identify specific tissues deep inside the body by using sound waves, instead of radiation or incision.
The use of focused ultrasound promises to be a revolutionary success in the treatment of disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and brain cancer. This is evident through its ability to pin point precisely the affected brain cells.
The Coming of Brain Biomarkers
The application of advanced diagnostic equipment in medicine is giving researchers a boost in identifying biomarkers for various neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases in the spinal-fluid, blood and brain imaging patterns.
By identifying the respective biomarkers for these diseases, the path has been set for the successful development of more effective diagnostic and treatment techniques in the future.
New Areas for Growth in Gene Therapy
Many clinical trials have shown promising results in efficient gene therapy for neurological disorders. This raises the chances of such methods being adopted in the clinics. The technique is useful in replacing or “switching-off” genes responsible for certain CNS diseases like ALS, epilepsy and Parkinson’s.
Molecular Intervention with the Application of Invasive Technology
The use of highly-advanced imaging machines like PET, CT, fluoroscopy, ultrasounds and MRI scans will someday be used by neurosurgeons to locate surgical targets in a non-invasive way. It will also make it easier to distinguish between benign and malignant tissues.
The use of minimally invasive, image-guided neurosurgery will be a major development in science because it reduces risk of surgical mortality rates.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Use of Technology in Neurological Treatment
What are Biomarkers and how do they help Neuroscientists in Brain Treatment
Biomarkers are simply brain cells or genes that are susceptible to, or responsible for making a person vulnerable to brain condition. Identifying and isolating them increases chances of prevention or cure.
Are there any Neuro-technologies Currently Available for Mainstream uses
Yes, there are notable uses of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) where paralytic patients use implanted devices to perform simple tasks such as holding a loved one. BCI’s are also being used by patients of Parkinson’s disease to eliminate the tremors.
Aren’t these tech devices and test going to be expensive?
Yes, it is likely to be expensive in the early use stages. But the government is working to subsidise them so than more patients can find them affordable. It is nothing a good insurance plan cannot handle.
What neurological condition is likely to be treated very soon
It is difficult to say with certainty as it will depend on the rate of funding and research. But more focus appears to be going into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. With the commitment and frequency of research, it is believed that a complete breakthrough is imminent.
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