Speaking the Language of the Brain With Light
Now widely used in neuroscience research, optogenetics allows researchers to use light to control specific neurons in the living brain. In animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders such as Feng’s autistic mice, optogenetics can be used to perturb the neurons suspected to be involved, and to test ideas about how the disease might be treated.
To target the light more accurately within the brain, Ed Boyden "member of Aspen Brain Forum's Scientific Advisory Board" and MIT electrical engineer Clif Fonstad have developed a 3-D array of waveguides, tiny light-conducting channels with mirrored ends that can deliver light pulses in complex patterns within a targeted brain region. In future they plan to incorporate recording electrodes into their devices and to use different colors that will allow multiple types of neurons to be controlled simultaneously. (We’re trying to speak the language of the brain with light,) says Boyden.
Emerging Technologies for Spinal Cord Injury
September 18, 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Aspen Brain Forum 2013
Amanda Boxtel's life changed at the age of 24 after a skiing accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. However, Amanda has been able to stand and walk again, thanks to a new bionic exoskeleton technology — a wearable robot that helps to keep her body in a normal standing position and responds to her small movements to initiate walking. While current technologies have just begun to integrate man and machine, the future of spinal cord rehabilitation is also bright.
Using a combination of naturally-occurring neurochemicals and electrical stimulation, Grégoire Courtine is rehabilitating severed spinal cords in paralyzed rats, with treatments for human patients not far on the horizon.
Photo: Amanda Boxtel in her new exoskeleton