Neuroelectronics: How Brains React to Fear

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Fri Oct 12 2001 - 10:48:26 MDT

New Field of Neuroelectronics Probes Brain's Reaction to Fear

Electronic devices to probe the brain's reaction to fear, compensate for
damaged nerves and possibly halt the degenerative effects of Parkinson's
disease - part of a new interdisciplinary field known as Neuroelectronics -
will be among the innovations presented at the UCLA Electrical Engineering
Department's Annual Research Review.

A forum in which graduate students present their latest research and answer
questions from industrial and government sponsors, the event will be held Oct.
15-16 at Covel Commons, Sunset Village.

Neuroelectronics brings together the disciplines of electrical engineering and
neurology. Engineers are using their skills to design systems that both
interrogate and simulate functions of the human body. Neuroelectronics, or
NeuroEngineering as it is also known, is part of an even larger set of
interdisciplinary fields in biomedical engineering.

A wireless probe implanted into the brain of a rat will provide information
about how its brain reacts to fear. Although such experiments traditionally
require the animal to be tethered by a wire connected to a recording device,
the new wireless design allows unrestricted tests to be conducted in a more
natural environment, resulting in animal behavior that is more natural.

Electrical engineering professor Jack W. Judy, who is conducting this research
in conjunction with Istvan Mody of the UCLA Department of Neurology, said
these experiments should lead to a greater understanding of fear and possibly
other emotions.

Another group working in this field is attempting to correct a vision problem
associated with head injuries. When the nerve that controls muscles
responsible for lateral movement of the eye is damaged, the remaining muscles
pull on the eye unopposed and the result is a loss of horizontal eye control.
When the eyes are relaxed, the eye with the damaged nerve will deviate inward.

The device UCLA researchers are designing will use information obtained from
the other normally functioning muscles of the eye to deduce the appropriate
position of the muscle
normally operated by the damaged nerves. That information, in turn, will be
used to provide the disassociated muscle with the proper stimulation to move
it into the correct position.

"The major biomechanical components of the eye constitute a nicely engineered
system," Judy said. "Studying this system, which is simpler than that
responsible for leg or arm motion," he said, "may lead to advances that can be
useful when restoring mobility to victims of spinal cord injury."

This research is being conducted in coordination with the UCLA Departments of
Psychology and Neurobiology and the Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Although commercial products already exist that can reduce the symptoms of
Parkinson's disease, researchers are developing a miniaturized, long-term,
deep-brain stimulator to be tested in combination with drugs in an attempt to
halt the degenerative effects of the disease. This research is being conducted
in coordination with Marie-Francoise Chesselet of the UCLA Department of
Neurology and the Brain Research Institute.

Other areas of research to be discussed include electromagnetics, MEMS, plasma
electronics, photonics, solid state electronics, communications and
telecommunications, control systems, signal processing circuits, embedded
computing systems and integrated circuits, optical MEMS, and photonic crystals
and microwave systems.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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