Panic No More

August 1, 2014

The future is a place for advancements and prosperity, the ideal place for new technology to be invented and implemented. Out of all things, I am a big advocate for mental health. If I were to design new neuroscience related technology, I would create something that would help ease panic attacks. My plan is to engineer a microchip that is attached to the lobes and the amygdala. This microscope will be able to record how fast neurons fire action potentials and what other parts of the body are being stimulated. During a panic attack, an individual may undergo a series of actions and emotions. Physical symptoms of a panic attack include heart palpitations, shaking, and tightness of the chest. Conditions such as these encourage anxiety to begin, initiating the “flight-or-fight” response. The amygdala is responsible for emotions and the frontal lobe functions in logic, decision making, and higher cognitive reasoning. These structures are greatly impacted by occasional or frequent waves of intense emotions. The microchip I have designed will measure the activity of neurons and to where these signals will be sent. If we can identify which regions of the body are being stimulated or damaged. This information can be directly taken from the microchip, which I have designed to be removable. It can inserted into a computer and then the information can be charted. The reason I choose to invent technology that deals with mental illnesses is because I feel like that even though there has been medication and other treatment options available for people suffering from panic disorder, I feel that it is not effective. Most often, people who have panic attacks cannot exactly express what they feel or how their minds become clouded. If technology such as this existed, then it would much easier to track which systems shut down and which ones send unnecessary “flight” reactions. An invention such as this may take a while to be brought to life. Sometimes, concept such as mental illness need time to be explained to the general public. Anxiety, panic, depression, and others are considered cries for attention, or the people who suffer them are still children who need to grow up. But these are all stereotypes, pretense. But sometimes a little effort goes a long way. With much more understanding, advancements regarding effective therapy can be made. It may seem far-fetched, but I hope my technology will become available for everyone to use, learn, and benefit from.

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Personal Neuro Connections

August 1, 2014

Have you ever wished you could communicate with someone silently? In modern neurotechnology, scientists have made it possible for humans to use their brains to communicate with external systems. For example, we just read about the paralysis patient Hutchinson who used her mind to move a robotic arm. While this is a great advancement in neurotechnology, I think it could be taken further in the future, to the point of humans sending brain signals to each other. This could be a great advancement that could connect two people on a larger scale than ever before, and it would show how the brain can be a very complex system.

To make this possible, a small sensor chip, much like the chip implanted in Hutchinson’s brain, would be surgically placed in each brain. This would be the chip that studies the neurons around it and send the signal to the other person. It is important to note that this would only send a signal out, not receive one. Thus, to create a send-and-receive system between two people, both subjects would also have to be implanted with a receiving chip. The receiving chip will be loaded with a complex system that sorts the brain signals and decodes action potentials, sending them to the region of the brain where they originated from. To initiate the send-and-receive response, a remote could be made for each subject with two buttons: a receiving power button and a sending power button. So, if one subject had both the buttons on but the other person only had the receiving button on, they could receive a signal but not send one, and vice versa.  I imagine that at least at  first, the system will only be able to send and receive signals that are very vague. A subject could send a signal to another subject that could prompt the receiving subject to display a feeling that is being projected in the first subject’s mind. For example, if the first subject were eating something sweet, it could send the signal to the other person, and the second subject’s mind would fire sensory neurons to show what the first subject is experiencing.

Though this would appear to be a cool invention, I think that it would still be dozens of years before a system like this could be perfected. While it is very possible to implant a sensor chip that studies the neurons around it in a human’s brain today, the real struggle in this device would be the receiving chip. In order to create software that can decode neuron signals from another person’s brain, scientists would have to identify incredible amounts of neuron signals that would likely be impossible for a long time. And once scientists create the devices, there is still a large chunk of time that would have to be dedicated to testing the system on model organisms before it could be trusted to work on humans.

But alas, it is important to never underestimate the future.

The following picture is a brief sketch of what I infer the system would look like. The chips would each be about the size of a lady bug, much like Hutchison’s sensor was. The receiving chip would contain a much more complex system, however, because it would contain the decoding system.

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