In the Zimmer article, you read about some of the latest technology that neuroscientists are using to study both the structure and function of the nervous system. In this exercise, you will dream up the next generation of technology that neuroscientists in the future will use. Your job is to design a piece of technology that will allow us to learn something about nervous system function that we cannot currently no using the current technology. Do not constrain your invention to what's currently possible, in other words imagine that you could measure any brain signal or look at any brain structure in any amount of detail. Think about the type of information you would like your new technology to measure, for example would you want to measure action potentials from every neuron in the brain at the same time? Or would it be useful to know what every synapse is doing? Perhaps you want your technology to be able to interfere with a certain aspect of brain function, or allotted to regenerate after it's been injured. Maybe you want to affect how neurons expressed genes, or maybe know about all the genes and proteins that a neuron is expressing while you are performing an important task, such as learning.
You can base your invention by extending an existing technology or create something totally new. To give you some inspiration you can follow these links to learn about ongoing efforts to control neuronal activity with light using a technique called optogenetics, or imaging the neural activity of an entire fish brain, or for example amateur neuroscientists who use brain stimulation to improve their own well-being. There is even a robot that will record activity of neurons for you. Or how about the idea of uploading your brain to a supercomputer that can simulate every neural process? Or having your post-mortem brain sliced into super thin sections, uploaded to a computer and 3D printed in super-high resolution to get a functioning clone? Or using light to implant fake memories? Amazingly, all of these efforts are ongoing right now, albeit with different degrees of success. What can you come up with?
1. To complete your assignment you will first have to think about what you want your technology to do.
- Is it measuring something about the brain, interfering with its activity, or expanding its function?
- Think about why you would want to do this and what this would tell you about how the brain works.
2. Next think about how it would be implemented.
- Will it be a wireless transducer that directly affects your neurons? A new type of imaging system?
- Remember that this is the future, so you are welcome to come up with something that hasn't been invented yet as long as it's internally consistent.
3. Draw up a design for your new invention. Make diagram of how it would interact with the nervous system and add as much detail as possible.
4. Finally, think about what advances would need to happen to make your technology possible. Think about a possible timeline, how long into the future do you anticipate something like this to be possible?
5. Once you have compiled all your thoughts and diagrams, compose a blog post. Your post should be between 500 -1000 words and include the following:
- Your diagram
- A description of your novel neurotechnology that answers all of the questions mentioned above.
6. To post, go to your section's blog and enter your work.
- To access your blog, click 'Blogs' in the left navigation bar and log in.
- Then click 'New' at the top of the blog and choose 'Post.'
- Enter your work and click 'Publish'
7. After publishing your blog entry, comment on two other posts from your peers and address any comments on your invention.
8. Lastly, when you are finished, return to this page, click 'Submit Assignment' above and paste the URL of your blog post into the text box that appears. (Remember: Post the URL of your individual blog post, not the section's blog).