Technology has a long history of helping us think in new and different ways about life.
It inspires creativity. It can open the mind about the ways of the universe – both big and small. And it can teach us new things by giving us instant access to knowledge and wisdom throughout the ages.
But now, technology has taken a categorial step forward. It won’t just help us how to think – it will tell us when.
The brain has always been one of the least understood organs in the body. Scientists tell us that all brain functionality – including consciousness itself – happens at the tiny level of neurons. When they fire, something happens that can’t be fully explained. But we’re getting closer to solving life’s greatest mystery. And new technology will help tell our brains when to fire certain neurons.
The field of study is called optogenetics, and researchers from Germany and Switzerland have used it to create a new tool to alter the cells in the brain to be sensitive to light, and force the neurons to fire on demand.
Optogenetics is an emerging science – you might call it a “Fringe” science. It involves complex combinations of light, electricity, and genes to manipulate brain cells. But this new implant – made of polymer plastics – combines all three components, paving the way forward.
Ethical nightmares of Dr. Frankenstein aside, why would anyone want such a device?
Well, as it turns out, this type of technology finds its ideal application in the research of certain neurological diseases and disorders. Whether it be Parkinsons disease, drug addiction, depression, or spinal-cord injuries, optogenetics is shedding the light on how the brain functions under stress – and how to manipulate it to provide alternative, healthier outcomes.