Wireless activation of targeted brain circuits in less than a second

Wireless activation of targeted brain circuits in less than a second

Researchers from Rice University, Duke University, Brown University and Baylor College of Medicine developed magnetic technology to wirelessly control neural circuits in fruit flies. They used genetic engineering to express heat-sensitive ion channels in neurons that control behavior and iron nanoparticles to activate the channels. When the researchers activated a magnetic field in the flies’ enclosure, the nanoparticles converted magnetic energy into heat, firing the channels and activating the neurons. An overhead camera filmed flies during the experiments, and visual analysis showed that flies with the genetic modifications assumed the spread-wing posture within about half a second of receiving the magnetic signal. Credit: C. Sebesta and J. Robinson/Rice University

A research team led by neuroengineers from Rice University has developed wireless technology to remotely activate certain brain circuits in fruit flies in less than a second.

In a published demonstration in natural materialsResearchers from Rice, Duke University, Brown University and Baylor College of Medicine used magnetic signals to selectively activate neurons that controlled the body position of freely moving fruit flies in an enclosure.

“To study the brain or treat neurological disorders, the scientific community is looking for tools that are both incredibly precise and minimally invasive,” said study author Jacob Robinson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice and a member of Rice’s Neuroengineering Initiative . “Remote control of selected neural circuits with magnetic fields is something of a holy grail for neurotechnology. Our work takes an important step towards this goal because it increases the speed of magnetic remote control and brings it closer to the brain’s natural speed.”

Robinson said the new technology activates neural circuits about 50 times faster than the best previously demonstrated technology for magnetically stimulating genetically defined neurons.






“We made progress because lead author Charles Sebesta had the idea of ​​using a new ion channel that is sensitive to the rate of temperature change,” said Robinson. “By bringing together experts in genetic engineering, nanotechnology and electrical engineering, we were able to put all the pieces together and prove that this idea works. This was truly a team effort of world-class scientists that we have been fortunate to work with.”

The researchers used genetic engineering to express a special heat-sensitive ion channel in neurons that causes flies to partially spread their wings, a common mating gesture. The researchers then injected magnetic nanoparticles that could be heated with an applied magnetic field. An overhead camera observed flies moving freely in an enclosure on an electromagnet. By changing the field of the magnet in a targeted manner, the researchers were able to heat the nanoparticles and activate the neurons. Analysis of videos from the experiments showed that flies with the genetic modifications assumed the spread-wing posture within about half a second of the change in magnetic field.

Robinson said the ability to activate genetically targeted cells at precise times could be a powerful tool for studying the brain, treating disease and developing direct brain-machine communication technology.

Wireless activation of targeted brain circuits in less than a second

Researchers from Rice University, Duke University, Brown University and Baylor College of Medicine have engineered genetically engineered neurons that control fruit fly posture to respond to signals from a magnetic field. Flies were injected with iron nanoparticles that converted magnetic signals into heat and activated the neurons. An overhead camera filmed how flies behave when neurons are both deactivated and activated by a magnetic field in their enclosure. Credit: C. Sebesta and J. Robinson/Rice University

Robinson is principal investigator of MOANA, an ambitious project to develop headset technology for non-surgical brain-to-brain wireless communication. MOANA, short for “magnetic, optical and acoustic neural access”, is attempting to develop a headset technology that “reads” or decodes neural activity in one person’s visual cortex and “writes” or encodes that activity into another person’s brain can. Magnetogenetic technology is an example of the latter.

Robinson’s team is working towards the goal of partially restoring the vision of blind patients. By stimulating parts of the brain associated with vision, MOANA researchers hope to give patients a sense of vision even when their eyes are no longer functioning.

“The long-term goal of this work is to develop methods to activate specific regions of the human brain for therapeutic purposes without ever having to perform surgery,” said Robinson. “To match the brain’s natural precision, we probably need to get a response of a few hundredths of a second. So there is still a long way to go.”


The project aims to transfer visual perceptions from the sighted to the blind


More information:
Charles Sebesta et al, Subsecond Multichannel Magnetic Control of Select Neural Circuits in Free Moving Flys, natural materials (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41563-022-01281-7

Provided by Rice University

Quote: Wireless activation of targeted brain circuits in less than one second (2022, July 14), retrieved July 14, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07-wireless-brain-circuits.html

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