Fundamentals::Neural engineering


Neural::neural    Brain::tissue    System::systems    Nerve::these    Devices::signals    Leach::schmidt

Fundamentals The fundamentals behind neuroengineering involve the relationship of neurons, neural networks, and nervous system functions to quantifiable models to aid the development of devices that could interpret and control signals and produce purposeful responses.


Messages that the body uses to influence thoughts, senses, movements, and survival are directed by nerve impulses transmitted across brain tissue and to the rest of the body. Neurons are the basic functional unit of the nervous system and are highly specialized cells that are capable of sending these signals that operate high and low level functions needed for survival and quality of life. Neurons have special electro-chemical properties that allow them to process information and then transmit that information to other cells. Neuronal activity is dependent upon neural membrane potential and the changes that occur along and across it. A constant voltage, known as the Membrane potential, is normally maintained by certain concentrations of specific ions across neuronal membranes. Disruptions or variations in this voltage create an imbalance, or polarization, across the membrane. Depolarization of the membrane past its Threshold potential generates an action potential, which is the main source of signal transmission, known as Neurotransmission of the nervous system. An action potential results in a cascade of ion flux down and across an axonal membrane, creating an effective voltage spike train or "electrical signal" which can transmit further electrical changes in other cells. Signals can be generated by electrical, chemical, magnetic, optical, and other forms of stimuli that influence the flow of charges, and thus voltage levels across neural membranes(He 2005).


Engineers employ quantitative tools that can be used for understanding and interacting with complex neural systems. Methods of studying and generating chemical, electrical, magnetic, and optical signals responsible for extracellular field potentials and synaptic transmission in neural tissue aid researchers in the modulation of neural system activity(Babb et al. 2008). To understand properties of neural system activity, engineers use signal processing techniques and computational modeling(Eliasmith & Anderson 2003). To process these signals, neural engineers must translate the voltages across neural membranes into corresponding code, a process known as neural coding. Neural coding uses studies on how the brain encodes simple commands in the form of central pattern generators (CPGs), movement vectors, the cerebellar internal model, and somatotopic maps to understand movement and sensory phenomena. Decoding of these signals in the realm of neuroscience is the process by which neurons understand the voltages that have been transmitted to them. Transformations involve the mechanisms that signals of a certain form get interpreted and then translated into another form. Engineers look to mathematically model these transformations(Eliasmith & Anderson 2003). There are a variety of methods being used to record these voltage signals. These can be intracellular or extracellular. Extracellular methods involve single-unit recordings, extracellular field potentials, and amperometry; more recently, multielectrode arrays have been used to record and mimic signals.

Neural engineering sections
Intro   Overview    History    Fundamentals    Scope    Research and applications    See also   Notes   External links   

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