Disease and Conditions

Are downloadable memories just around the corner? ( Using light repsonse as a Binary Code model )

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:18:49 EST, 26  October 2012| UPDATED:18:49 EST, 26 October 2012

A scientist at MIT could be on track to  uncovering how to restore lost memories in the brain.

Using light stimulation to control neurons  and map out brain activity, scientists could repair neuron functionality in  cases where a stroke, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases have caused  reduced brain functionality.

Dr Ed Boyden, a researcher at the  Massachusetts university, is studying how to code brain pathways and eventually  could discover how to code memories and re-upload that information to restore  neuron functionality.

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Image concept of a network of neurons in the human brain.

Brain science: There are approximately 100 billion  neurons in the human brain, which scientists are attempting to map and control  (stock image)

Ray of light:

Ray of light: A protein, channelrhodopsin (ChR) which is  actually extracted from algae, can be inserted into neurons to convert light  into electricity

The human brain has approximately 100 billion  neurons that pass along information.

Dr Boyden, who leads the Synthetic  Neurobiology Group at the MIT Media  Lab, is studying how to use light to  control neuron activity and to decode brain patterns.

He has identified a protein,  channelrhodopsin (ChR) which is actually extracted from algae, that can  convert light into electricity.

Ed Boyden

Dr Ed Boyden leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group at  the MIT Media Lab

When this protein is inserted into neurons it  prompts neurons to respond to flashing lights and send an electrical signal.

With this inserted protein in place, Boyden  and his team could begin mapping out electrical signals sent in the brain triggered by light, using a specially  designed computer program.

The impact of light could become an ‘on-off’  switch for neuron activity.

Additionally, the light sensitive  protein  could allow the brain to be translated into a binary code that  allows for the  mapping of these complex pathways.

If brain pathways could be coded, it would  allow for that information to be converted and stored.

Memories could be coded and that code saved,  available to be re-introduced should neuron functionality diminish over time.

Testing in mice has proved successful in  treating brain disorders and as the experiments continue, it  could greatly  impact treatments for debilitating brain degeneration

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