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A pacemaker for your brain
Date:6/28/2010

By stimulating certain areas of the brain, scientists can alleviate the effects of disorders such as depression or Parkinson's disease. That's the good news. But because controlling that stimulation currently lacks precision, over-stimulation is a serious concern losing some of its therapeutic benefits for the patient over time.

Now a Tel Aviv University team, part of a European consortium, is delving deep into human behavior, neurophysiology and engineering to create a chip that can help doctors wire computer applications and sensors to the brain. The chip will provide deep brain stimulation precisely where and when it's needed.

Prof. Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University's Psychobiology Research Unit in its Department of Psychology is focusing on the behavioral-physiological aspects of the research. He and the rest of the international research team are working toward a chip that could help treat some diseases of the mind in just a few years. The platform, says Prof. Mintz, is flexible enough to provide a basis for a variety of clinical experiments, and tools which can be programmed for specific disorders. For example, the chip could restore lost functions of the brain after a traumatic brain injury from a car accident or stroke.

Reversing strokes, depression and aging

The team's methodology is straightforward they record activity using electrodes implanted in diseased areas of the brain. Based on an analysis of this activity, they develop algorithms to simulate healthy neuronal activity which are programmed into a microchip and fed back into the brain.

For now, the chip, called the Rehabilitation Nano Chip (or ReNaChip), is hooked up to tiny electrodes which are implanted in the brain. But as chips become smaller, the ReNaChip could be made small enough to be "etched" right onto the electrodes themselves.

For therapeutic purposes, though, only the electrodes will be inserted into the brai
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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