Week 12.11 – 18.11

This week started with the weekly quizz. This time it was the turn for the Wiring the Brain chapter in the book, where we could learn about how the brain comes to be what it is in its adult stage. From its synapses to its macroscopical structure, what lies behind the genesis of our most important organ ? That’s what we attempted to understand in this lecture.

We started by going through all the precursor cells and the paths and transformations they go through to achieve their final destination and structure. Soon enough, we concluded how the brain grows inside out, just like one of the questions on the quiz wondered on. It is said so precisely because the neutrons migrate from the inner part of the cortex to more superficial cortical layers, past already formed ones. We went through how each neuron grows until it reaches its target cell, aided by either chemoattractors or chemorepulsors.

Specifically in this topic it was very interesting to understand how scientists got their hands on this kind of information and perfected their theories throughout the years. Most studies were obviously made on animals, namely mice and frogs. This made me wonder a bit about animal experimenting. Of course most of neuroscience is based on it, and the authors of the book for this course do provide a good justification for its use in one of the initial chapters of the book. But how far can we go in the name of science ? Maybe for now that we know so little about the mysterious workings of our brain we are not comfortable experimenting with humans yet. But hopefully at some point we will be able to leave animal experimenting in the past and move to other methods of researching.

Synaptic rearrangement and elimination were extensively discussed along with the mechanisms behind ocular dominance shift or at least the theories surrounding it. It was widely interesting to finally learn that critical periods for human capacity plasticity really is a real studied and confirmed thing instead of simply a theory we tell ourselves to excuse our less capable selfs of learning new things as we grow older. Certainly a lot of research is still to be done in those fields.

The following day we went on our second excursion on this course. This one sparked our interest and curiosity much more than the first one we must say. This excursion was to the sooma medical company. None of us knew anything about it so we went with o expectations.

Our first impression was quite positive since the atmosphere of the company is super modern and has a little scent of innovation in the air. Was we sat down, one member of the company promptly introduced us to their main activities and devices. The product they offer is tDCS self-neurostimulator. They have been developing it and testing it for a few years now and have gotten groundbreaking results. The main advantage is that it is very easy to self administer, there is simply one button on it. It also has automated safety features to ensure the patient’s comfort.

So far they are only making it available for medical professionals instead of providing treatment themselves. It supports double-blind condition and can be configured for multiple study protocols.

Sooma is in fact the world leader in home-based neuromodulation at the moment. In the studies they carried out, the majority of patients experienced a marked improvement as a result of the Sooma Depression Therapy. The average improvement rate was 49%. This is quite impressive comparing to other existent solutions for depression. More specifically, 86% of the patients achieved partial response, the response rate was 59%, and the remission rate was 18%. This sounded very promising. Let’s see how this values evolve as it is increasingly used.

Depression is unfortunately an issue very much worth debating given its high prevalence in nowadays population, specially in younger age groups. If this turns out to be a reliable method, even to add to the already used ones including medication, it could make a difference in a lot of lives for the better and that should really always be researchers main aim at every point.

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