Navigation Links
Can a virtual brain replace lab rats?

Testing the effects of drugs on a simulated brain could lead to breakthrough treatments for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada hope Spaun, the world's largest functioning model of the brain, will be used to test new drugs that lead to medical breakthroughs for brain disorders.

Terrence Stewart, a post-doctoral researcher with the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience at Waterloo and project manager for Spaun, will tell an audience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago about the advantages of using whole-brain simulation as a tool to aid new discoveries in medicine.

"Our hope is that you could try out different possible treatments quickly to see how the brain reacts and how each one changes behaviour before testing them in people," said Stewart. "Our brain model offers a new way to test treatments. For Alzheimer's disease or a stroke that causes memory loss, we could see how a new drug affects the firing pattern of individual brain cells and measure how it changes brain performance on memory tests before trying it on people."

Stewart's team has already made progress simulating Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Their next step is to simulate Alzheimer's disease after giving Spaun a hippocampus, the brain region involved in forming new memories.

Spaun is more like the human brain than other computer brain models because it makes mistakes and loses abilities in similar ways to people. To simulate the cognitive decline associated with aging, for example, Stewart and his team killed off neurons in the brain model and observed it gradually forgetting more numbers on a memory test.

To reproduce movement problems associated with Huntington's disease and damage to the cerebellum, Stewart damaged parts of the simulated brain affected by those conditions.

"We showed that errors made in reaching behaviour seen in people with those disorders correspond to the errors made by our brain model when neurons in the affected brain regions are damaged," he said.

Spaun can see, remember, think and write using a mechanical arm. Most importantly, this virtual brain which mimics the neuron firing patterns seen in the human brain allows the researchers to study and understand how damage to individual cells affects the behaviour of the whole brain in different neurological diseases.


Contact: Nick Manning
University of Waterloo

Related biology news :

1. Researchers hit virtual heads to make safer games
2. Virtual skin model reveals secrets of skin aging
3. Amazon River exhales virtually all carbon taken up by rain forest
4. Virtual patient advocate delivers preconception care to improve pregnancy outcomes
5. Virtual, squishy creatures evolve to run using evolutionary algorithms
6. Virtual vehicle vibrations
7. UT Dallas researchers pushing the boundaries of virtual reality
8. Virtual women reveal more skin, regardless of body proportions
9. U of M to lead international virtual institute studying climatic and human effects on Earth
10. VirtualScopics Schedules Third Quarter 2012 Earnings Announcement
11. University of Tennessee Space Institute researchers make clinical trials a virtual reality
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/31/2016)... March 31, 2016   ... or the "Company") LegacyXChange is excited to ... its soon to be launched online site for trading ... ) will also provide potential shareholders a sense ... technology to an industry that is notorious for fraud. ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... , March 29, 2016 ... "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to ... ink used in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring ... of originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will ... analysis of the DNA. Bill Bollander ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... , March 22, 2016 ... report "Electronic Sensors Market for Consumer Industry by Type ... Others), Application (Communication & IT, Entertainment, Home ... Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... expected to reach USD 26.76 Billion by ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... innovative medical technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's primary ... various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary to help companies ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... discussions on a range of subjects including policies, debt and ... Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to the Canadian ... to the country,s inflation target, which is set by both ... "In certain areas there needs to be ... why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced ... this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 A person commits ... the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has ... to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as ...
Breaking Biology Technology: