An espresso and neuroscience. #researchsaves

20150924_163545The espresso, smooth if prepared well with just enough bitterness to wake you up to the jolt of energy about to come, once the caffeine molecules start antagonizing the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system.

The antagonistic effect of caffeine on these receptors gives you the ‘energy boost’ your brain is craving. Yes, I used the word craving because caffeine is the most unregulated psychoactive nervous stimulant with respect to the quantities it is consumed at, in the world.

While sipping this beautiful cup of doppio, I came across this article posted in the Journal of Neuro-engineering and Rehabilitation which talks about the possibility of setting up an external interface to help a paralyzed man walk again or gain ‘motor’ control over his lower limbs.

The caffeine boost from the doppio is working and I can feel the effects of the stimulant slashing through the mid-afternoon drowsiness, but there are thousands of people for whom this communication between the central and the peripheral nervous system is broken and by extension, the nerves and the muscles. It is akin to having an engine that sends out a signal but due to a bad transmission, the wheels do not turn or the brakes do not stop.

While spinal cord injury research is ongoing in its attempt to repair a broken nerve or restore the communication, it is easier said than done, however, as my hashtag always says, #researchsaves and a majority of this blog will be devoted to talking about science and its insurmountable role in saving lives.

One interesting approach as pointed out in this paper, is to bypass the broken region in the nervous system by having a brain to computer interface that can receive the signal from the brain and then relay it to the muscle.

Now keep in mind, just because you restore the electrical circuit or connection between the brain and the muscle through this interface, the muscles still need to be conditioned to receive the electrical response and act accordingly.

Who remembers the scene from The Matrix(1999) in which Neo escapes from the matrix for the first time after spending his entire life to that point in a jelly filled cocoon?

He spent a good amount of time in a chamber getting all his muscles conditioned to respond to the neural stimulation from his brain which for the first time was actually reaching his muscles unlike the dream like stage he was in till that point.

The paper points towards promising research which one day I hope can help people who have broken spinal cords or some neural communication problem to be able to gain or regain control of their muscles.

Well, I think I need a recharge, do click on the link in the article to read the paper and feel free to share this article with the hashtag #researchsaves

Arrivederci