Why aliens might be able to see our brains
The idea of an alien brain scanning device may be a little outlandish, but there’s no denying that the technology could one day revolutionise our understanding of the human brain.
The idea has already caught on in the medical community, and now a team of researchers is working on the technology to develop a wearable device that would allow people to see the human nervous system.
In this case, that would be the human head, but it could also work for other parts of the body, such as the heart.
The technology, developed by Dr Anupama Rajput of the University of California, San Francisco, is based on an optical signal processor (OSP), a small computer chip that allows the computer to decode the signals sent by the nervous system and process them into information.
The signal processing chips, called OSPs, have a variety of applications in diagnosing disease, as well as analysing the body’s own electrical signals.
For the purposes of this research, Dr Rajput has developed a device that uses a combination of the signals to map the brain to an area called the ventral tegmental area, which is associated with sensory and motor functions.
By decoding the signals from this area, the device can be able at a very low level to determine how the brain is connected to the rest of the nervous network.
Dr Rajpt says this method could be a game-changer in treating neurological disorders.
It could also be used to measure the brain’s electrical activity, which would give a clearer picture of how much brain activity there is in a particular area of the brain.
“You could imagine the brain being mapped so that if you have a diagnosis of depression, or Parkinson’s disease, or anxiety, the brain could be mapped to the ventrolateral tegmentale,” he says.
“So you could measure a person’s brain activity in a way that is much more precise.”
Dr Rajps research is part of a new effort to develop wearable OSPs that could be worn on the body and used to map our brain activity, and the first to do so has been developed by scientists at the University at Buffalo in New York.
The device, which Dr Rajp has dubbed a “brain scan,” can record the electrical signals sent to the brain from the muscles, which in turn are recorded using electrodes placed in the skull.
It’s possible to imagine using the device to map a person in a virtual reality environment, but the devices are not currently being used in that way.
The devices are still very much in the development phase, but Dr Rajpan says the potential is enormous.
“This is a new way of understanding how the nervous systems work in the brain, and there’s a lot of potential in this field,” he said.
“It is exciting that we’re in a position where we have a device for this.”
It’s also not just an area for the brain mapping research.
It also shows the importance of studying the human body, and Dr Rajap says there are a number of medical applications to be had from studying the brain in detail.
“We can now study the entire human body to understand how our nervous systems function,” he added.
“The fact that we can use that information to develop better drugs and medical therapies, for example, opens up the whole world of medicine.”
The study has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Source: Al Jazeera