By: Karishma Muthukumar, Ashley Gong, and Yannawadee Emma Phungraksakiat
“We took him bowling on his 60th birthday, and he picked up a bowling ball and did not know what it was for.” - Chelsea Cox
Chelsea Cox, MPH, MSW, learned that her father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s while in high school. As she witnessed the disease unfold, she not only grappled with the challenges of a caregiver but also became determined to change the outlook of Alzheimer’s. Dedicated to the cause, her experience continues to fuel her research and advocacy today. Chelsea serves as the Associate Director of Education at UCI MIND (www.mind.uci.edu), one of only 32 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers across the country funded by the National Institutes of Health. She shares the moving story of her father as a patient and her thoughts on Alzheimer’s care and research progress.
Read full interview here.
On January 4th, the Synapse team headed out to Seal Beach to participate in Painting with Mom. Painting with Mom is an event that is sponsored by BlueSea Care Services and the City of Seal Beach. The program is designed for women with Alzheimer's and their loved ones to partake in free painting classes that is both fun and socially stimulating. After attending this class for ourselves, the Synapse team is happy to say that this was one of the most heart-warming events we have ever taken part in. All of the participants were kind-hearted and boosting with creativity that was evident through their masterpieces. As a helping hand, we assisted with set-up, distributing materials, and clean-up - not to mention being able to meet so many inspiring individuals that help to conduct this class so selflessly.
It was also amazing to see how much of an impact the activity itself had on the participants. The simple act of painting resulted in the women laughing alongside each other, showcasing their work proudly, and getting their mind off of the usual stress they endure. Ranging from young adults to older women, everyone was engaged in their paintings. At the end of the night, all participants posed with their art and left with happy faces, positive remarks, and a better mood. It was definitely a wonderful event that I'd recommend for all to partake in.
With more neuroscientists having breakthrough findings through their research, brain science technology is really turning some heads. Much of this can be attributed to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative in 2013. This was a $115 million plan that has since produced “switches” to turn neurons on and off, the ability to insert glowing molecules to observe brain processes, and the capability to record huge amounts of neuron activity at once.
John Krakaeur, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is changing the way people view brain science. “People think technology = big data = machine learning = science. And it’s not,” says Krakaeur. In my opinion, he couldn’t be more right. Nowadays, science exceeds the realms of machinery and complex contraptions and it is stretching to become more interdisciplinary. Krakaeur, a vanguard in brain science, says that brains are so intricate and unique because of the effect they have on an individual’s behavior. However, an absence of motivated individuals who share this interest is what’s leading to the field’s denial. Neuroscientists are instead using resources to study neurons and the way they work individually and in groups. However, this study will only tell us so much about the real workings of the mind, and in order to really get into it, more scientists need to start focusing on how brains create behavior.
Science is finally breaking the barriers that have been set in stone for so long which means that now is as good a time as ever to be inspired, come out of your comfort zone, and maybe even change the world.
To learn more, visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/02/how-brain-scientists-forgot-that-brains-have-owners/517599/
As scientists broaden research on brain science and ways to improve upon it, profit-minded individuals are quick to find ways to turn the field into a business. As a result, entrepreneurs such as Paul Allen, Jeffrey Hawkins, and Robin Li have since made ground-breaking inventions that will forever change the future of the brain. These inventions not only create ingenious ways to reverse and alter brain illnesses, but alo give the gift of life to many who would not be able to survive without it.
As researchers dig deeper into the workings of the brain, more and more details have been uncovered, allowing for a much better understanding of how the brain would react to connections with machines, also known as brain-computer interfaces (BCI). BCIs are currently being used by paralyzed patients by allowing them to turn thoughts into emails, among other actions. Mind mapping is another new term that has made it’s way into the brain science world. This allows for a patient to undergo a brain scan that could potentially detect early warning signs of diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia. Furthermore, for those without mental illnesses, BCI still has a place in everyday life. For example, there are BCI racing games, an Australian “attention-powered” car, and mind-controlled drones - just to name a few.
At the rate that the brain science industry is growing, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla interprets that technology will soon replace over 80% of the time a doctor would normally take to make a health decision for a patient. With ongoing projects, such as the Allen Institute Brain Atlas and Cell Types project, the Brain Initiative, the Human Brain Project, the Blue Brain Project and the China Brain Science Project, the possibilities of brain technology are limitless. A hundred years ago no one would have believed that a car would be able to be powered by real-time sensors that monitor a driver’s concentration, but now that this is a reality, who knows what will happen in another hundred.
To learn more visit: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/08/5-brain-technologies-future/