h+ Magazine

Summer 2009

Issue link: http://cp.revolio.com/i/1161

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Page 21 of 83

AI BIO eNHANCeD NANO NeurO HumOr FOreVer YOuNG 22 summer 2009 BIO NANO NeurO HumOr FOreVer YOuNG eNHANCeD The best current technology combines psychosurgery and implantation. right now, hard-to-treat disorders can get a diffi cult direct neural treatment called Deep Brain stimulation, or DBs. DBs is like a pacemaker for the brain. An electrode is snaked down to the area associated with the disorder being treated and left in place. After the surgery has healed, the implant pulses current at a frequency that either activates or quiets the area responsible for the condition. Affecting cells further from the electrode means passing more current through nearby cells. DBs is by far the most precise clinical procedure for controlling areas of the brain, but it's still disappointingly non-specifi c. since DBs involves brain surgery, it's generally a treatment of last resort, but it's shown good results for previously untreatable cases of Parkinson's, chronic pain, and depression. electrode implantation is an extreme measure, not likely to be widely used. Dr. Karl Deisseroth of stanford university can go one better. He's developed a technique called optogenetics that combines genetic engineering, lasers, neurology and surgery to create a direct control mechanism. Optogenetics uses a brain cell switch with two genetic parts. The fi rst is a gene taken from an algae that activates the cell in the presence of blue light in order to turn towards the light Optogenetics enHanCeD: QuINN NOrTON B rain control has always proven tricky, particularly when it comes to the brain trying to control itself. We have many indirect methods — drugs, meditation, education, travel, etc. — but people have always wanted quick and reliable control of their brain states. And what that actually means is that they want to change an area of the brain. switching the drives and mental states we need on and off would be considerably less frustrating than the transitioning struggles nature has given us. And so we are entering the era of a new set of technologies for direct neural control.

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