#1 – Manipulating Brain Using Light Beam.
Normal brain cells do not respond to light. Instead, humans have found a way to make brain cells sensitive to light. There is a special type of molecules known as opsins and they changes when exposed to light. But these molecules are only produced by bacteria and injecting them into the brain is not possible. So neuroscientist have turned to using viruses to inject genes capable of producing opsins straight into rat brains, making rat neurons capable of producing opsins.
Neuroscientists have found a way to make neurons sensitive to light. They genetically modify neurons DNA with viruses such that neurons can produce opsins. Opsins is a special type of molecules that can respond to light and it is often found integrated with our optical nerves, allowing the optical nerves to respond to light. Now neuroscientists can make our brain cells respond to light the same way as our optical nerves, thanks to the presence of opsins in genetically modified brain cels.
Neuroscientists discovered that neural activity can be manipulated when neuroscientists shone light of different duration, intensity and location at the brain cells. For example deleting bad memories. First, neuroscientists identify the neurons involved in bad memories formation by dying them with a fluorescence dye. When lights are being shone at these neurons, neuroscientists found that mice were able to lose their bad memories.
However, one of the drawback of such manipulation is that opsin only respond well to green, yellow and blue but these lights does not penetrate living tissues well. Rats skulls have to be removed to expose their brain before neuroscientists can influence their brain with light.
Fortunately, a group of neuroscientist from University of California, School of Medicine have discovered a new molecules known as JAW. JAW can respond well to red light. And with red light, neuroscientist need not cut open rats skull as red light can easily penetrate through living tissues. This is definitely more humane and have important contribution to research as invasive method of delivering light can disrupt normal brain function and skew research data.
#2 – Electrical Stimulation With Electrode Implants.
Humans beings have manipulating brains with electricity for a long time. In the past, patient who complained about chronic headaches would get an electric torpedo fish slapped on their forehead. Of course, with varying rates of success of curing the chronic headaches.
Our brains operate by electrical impulses, it is no wonder that electricity itself can alter the electrical impulses within our brain to bring about beneficial outcomes. For example, treating of depression, chronic pains and strokes. Alternatively, we can boost cognitive capabilities in healthy individuals like creativity, learning and memories.
In 2000, two german neuroscientist have found ways to regulate the excitability of neurons in specific regions of the brains and they hope their techniques can help cure epilepsy and other mental disorder. Their study had promising result even though their setup were crude. Two sponges soaked in saline solution were place over the head and small current are then passed through the two sponges.
But neuroscientist have moved on with more better electrical stimulation with multiple electrodes, accuracy of electrode position and surgically implanted electrodes to better influence brain activity. Studies have shown that electrical stimulation have helped strokes patient recover better by making neurons more plastic, more capable of reproduce itself to replace dead neurons. And in healthy individuals, electrical stimulation have found to help them improve cognitive abilities like memories and mathematical skills.
Electrical influence the brain by altering the electrical potential across neuronal membranes and make electrical impulses easier or more difficult to fire. Plus, long term electrical stimulation can also change the way our brain is wired.
#3 – Magnetism Stimulation.
The brain can be stimulated with fast changing magnetic fields. The fast magnetic fields would then induce a rapidly changing electric current known as eddy current within your brain. The small eddy current would be able to influence the electrical potential across neural membranes, changing the amount of electrical impulses fired.
Plus, neuroscientists can manipulate their magnetic fields to precisely influence the region of the brain they desire. This allow neuroscientists to deactivate the region of the brain responsible for mental illnesses like depression. Alternative, region of your brain responsible for happiness can be activated to make you feel happy.
Furthermore studies done by NorthWestern University have discovered that magnetic stimulation could boost memory in human participants. And such magnetic treatment could be used to treat patient with memories problems.
#4 – Altering Your Brain Genes – Epigenetics.
Scientists have discovered mobile genetic materials known as retrotransposons. They have special ability that can be easily penetrate and insert itself into our DNA. And when inserted, retrotransposons can also be easily removed.
During the removal process, genes adjacent to retrotransposons can be removed together as well and be inserted into another region along the DNA strands. Such movement of genes to another region along the DNA strands have important implications as shifting genes to other region may cause it to be switched on or off. When genes are being switched on or off, the amount of specialized protein critical to cellular functions can be altered, changing the cell functions and properties.
Neuroscientist have been using the unique properties of retrotransposons to manipulate brain cells. Retrotransposons can be manufactured easily with desirable genes and inserted into our DNA using engineering viruses.
In an experiment conducted by Southwestern Medical Center, neuroscientists were able to turn off certain genes in mice. This made the mice more sensitive to antidepressant drugs and as such, the mice requires much lower dosage of antidepressant drugs
#5 – Precise and Targeted Ultrasonic Waves.
Our strongest motivation like survival and reproduction stems from our deep brain. Deep brain stimulation is important to help a person to his or her animalistic instinct but deep brain stimulation have been difficult as most means of manipulation like magnetism or electricity cannot penetrate living tissues well except for ultrasonic waves.
Ultrasonic waves have been so effectively that DARPA have invested huge amount of money to develop next generation transcranial pulsed ultrasound technology to improve soldier fighting capabilities, improve sensory capabilities and reduce combat stresses.
Furthermore neuroscientist at from Arizona State University have discovered that ultrasounds can influence brain waves often associated with memory forming. Also, ultrasound can stimulate the production of proteins that are responsible for neural plasticity, making individual learn things faster.