MIT Develops Fibers Which Transmit Signals to the Human Brain

For the first time, the MIT research team introduced an innovative technology that could revolutionize the way scientists study the functions and interconnections of the complex components and regions of the human brain.

As Park notes in the research paper, the success of the project is largely attributable to the MIT research team’s efficient relationship between material scientists, chemists, biologists and cognitive researchers who have each played an important role in the designing, development and structuring of tiny fibers that transmitted various types of signals into the human brain.

Structurally, the tiny fibers were designed and developed by MIT material scientists and chemists to accurately mimic brain tissues. Researchers precisely replicated the structure of brain tissues to allow the human brain to believe that its cells are transmitting signals.

Since the the tiny fiber identically mimics the structure of brain tissues down to their physical characteristics and features, it opens the possibility for long-term implants that could remain in the human system for significantly longer periods. Because the tiny fibers are also soft and flexible like organic tissue, researchers, doctors and surgeons can afford to have an extensive period in which they can explicitly study the collection of data in particular regions of the brain.

MIT News, the main publication of the university, revealed that the MIT research team carried out successful tests on lab mice. Researchers were able to study the effect of signal processing through tiny fibers on mice by looking into the neuronal activity within their brains.

The research paper read:

“In tests with lab mice, the researchers were able to inject viral vectors that carried genes called opsins, which sensitize neurons to light, through one of two fluid channels in the fiber. They waited for the opsins to take effect, then sent a pulse of light through the optical waveguide in the center, and recorded the resulting neuronal activity, using six electrodes to pinpoint specific reactions. All of this was done through a single flexible fiber just 200 micrometers across — comparable to the width of a human hair.”

Polina Anikeeva, the co-author of the research paper and one of the leading researchers in the team, stated that the MIT research team’s discovery is truly revolutionary in the sense that various types of signals can now be sent through a single type of fiber. Prior to the discovery and findings of MIT, different types of fibers had to be used to transmit certain kinds of data.

“It can deliver the virus [containing the opsins] straight to the cell, and then stimulate the response and record the activity — and [the fiber] is sufficiently small and bio compatible so it can be kept in for a long time,” Anikeeva noted.

Image Via: NY Times

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