The Daily Dose: New device digs deeper into the brain to read signals

Sign up for Scientific Inquirer’s Steady State Newsletter for the week’s top stories, exclusive interviews, and weekly giveaways. Plenty of value added but without the tax.

The COVID-19 situation continues to worsen around the world. In addition to Brazil and the United States’ uncontrolled outbreaks, conditions in India are showing very few signs of improvement even as the government has made moves to reopen the economy. There are at least 450,000 confirmed cases, though that figure is most likely an undercount. According to Nature, “The current surge in infections follows a two-and-a-half-month India-wide lockdown that began on 25 March and severely disrupted the economy and livelihoods. Some researchers say the government failed to take advantage of this time to prepare the country’s struggling health infrastructure. Even as India struggles, the true scale of the epidemic there might not be apparent. The country has an incomplete death-registration system, which means that not all deaths are recorded and the documented cause is often incorrect.” So long as governments continue mishandling the pandemic, infections and deaths will continue to mount parabolically.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, public officials and concerned citizens placed unbelievable weight on epidemic models’ predictions. While most models agreed in terms of the disease’s trajectory, their figures often skewed toward extreme, worst-case scenarios. A lot of the misunderstanding boils down to an incorrect understanding of how models function and how their results are interpreted. An opinion piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tries to clarify the limitations of modelling. As per the PNAS, “All models’ assumptions fail to describe the details of most real-world systems. However, these systems may possess large-scale behaviors that do not depend on all these details (2). A simple model that correctly captures these large-scale behaviors but gets some details wrong is useful; a complicated model that gets some details correct but mischaracterizes the large-scale behaviors is misleading at best. The accuracy and sophistication of a model’s details matter only if the model’s general assumptions correctly describe the real-world behaviors of interest.” This distinction is important to keep in mind as the pandemic continues spreading around the world.

A new device will provide neuroscientists greater access to the electronic pulses that comprise human thought. As per FierceBiotech, “The FDA has approved Medtronic’s latest deep-brain stimulation implant, featuring the ability to read, capture and transmit a patient’s brain signals during therapy. This would allow for more personalized treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease, tremors, epilepsy, dystonia or obsessive-compulsive disorder by correlating readings with patient-recorded actions and symptoms, as well as medication intake, and then tailoring their neurostimulation accordingly.” It may not be reading your mind yet, but that is no doubt somewhere in the not-so-distant future. And of course, there’s a mobile device extension that allows patients to customize their therapy.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

Words matter. Images matter. The Scientific Inquirer needs your support. Help us pay our contributors for their hard work. Visit our Patreon page and discover ways that you can make a difference.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: