When I think of brain transplants I think of Frankenstein’s monster — complete with nuts and bolts. This is not what scientists are proposing when they speak of brain transplants. What they want is to transplant healthy brain cells from one source to another so a damaged brain is able to repair itself in the area that is not working normally.
Is it possible? Up until now it’s only been the subject of sci-fi movies.
A recent study published in the journal, Science, indicates it’s closer than we may think.
The researchers were able to develop neurons from embryonic cells and they were efficient at integrating with the native neuronal circuitry. The cells were able to communicate to recipient neurons through normal synaptic contacts, and that the brain signaled back. Responding to leptin, insulin and glucose, these neurons had effectively joined the brain’s network and rewired the damaged circuitry.
Researchers were able to transplant new neurons to the brains of mutated mice to one specific area, and were able to normalize function to a damaged area that had been prohibited from responding to the hormone leptin, which regulated metabolism and controls body weight. Without the leptin the mice usually became morbidly obese. When the researchers repaired the defective brain circuits, letting them respond to leptin, they slowed their weight gain significantly.
Implanted rats were then given a memory task that consisted of touching one of two levers in their cage, after being distracted, in order to get a drink of water. For them to know which lever would give them the water the second time they had to know which lever they pushed the first time. Electrodes were attached to the rats that recorded signals between two areas of their brain involved in storing new information into long-term memory. A drug was administered to them to keep these two areas from communicating with each other.
The rats knew they had to press one lever, and not the other, to get their water, but couldn’t remember which one. Researchers then played back the recorded neural signals through the implants and the rats were then able to remember which lever to push. When they played back the signals in the rats that did not receive the blocker drug, this reinforced their normal memory and they made fewer mistakes and were able to remember longer which lever to push.
This research is ground breaking. It shows that neural signals involved in memory can be recorded and replayed, and that allows for the possibility of developing new therapeutic approaches to conditions such as spinal cord injury, autism, epilepsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time USA Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.
MemoryZine.com — Brain Transplant Lets Recorded Memories Be Played Back: http://memoryzine.com/