New technologies to improve brain health.
Collection EditorsJoaquin Anguera, Kevin Jones, Theodore Zanto
About this collectionYour brain is an organ which sits inside your skull and controls everything you do throughout the day! Your brain is hard at work when you are texting, walking, talking, eating, or playing Fortnite. After we are born our brain continues to grow and form new connections between cells in the brain, called neurons. The growth of neurons leads to our ability to speak and walk as we are children and, importantly, lets us remember events from our life. Our brain continues to grow until we reach our early 20s and after that it is all downhill from there.
Paying attention and maintaining a healthy memory are important for all the tasks we do in our everyday life. Our short-term memory is vital throughout the day as we rehearse phone numbers and while walking on our phone, whereas long-term memory allows us to recall events from our past. Unfortunately, our short-term or “working memory” is limited to about 3 items and only lasts a few seconds, and gets worse as we age. Our long-term memory also declines as we age and this is especially troublesome for senior citizens who want to remain independent. The aging “Baby Boomer” population, like your grandparents, is rapidly approaching the age where memory disorders like dementia become increasing likely. Dementia often progresses to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the slow death of neurons throughout the brain that ruins our memory.
Keeping our brains healthy is not just vital to maintaining independence as we age. We can actually improve our performance on school, sports, and all the activities we enjoy. This need to improve brain health has led to new technologies in neuroscience. A few examples of this can be seen in how scientists can apply electricity to the brain to improve brain health, and use video games and virtual to improve our attention and memory. Understanding how the brain functions and how disease and injury disrupt these functions are important for guiding future medical and research interventions. Advanced neuroscience techniques allow us to track how the brain changes. We can look inside the brain and see how parts of the brain respond with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, we can measure the electrical signals that occur between brain regions with electroencephalography (EEG) recordings. With these and other techniques, neuroscientists can observe how the brain changes when we improve on tasks or as we fall ill with disease.
In this special topic, we will learn about how new technologies are being applied to neuroscience problems such as improving our memory and attention as we age or learn new skills like languages and music. As science and technology continue to advance and work together, new medical breakthroughs will improve our brain health and lead to longer, healthier lives.
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