New quantum material could warn of neurological disease

phys.org | 8/15/2018 | Staff
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What if the brain could detect its own disease? Researchers have been trying to create a material that "thinks" like the brain does, which would be more sensitive to early signs of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.

Thinking is a long way off, but Purdue University and Argonne National Laboratory researchers have engineered a new material that can at least "listen."

Lingua - Franca - Currents - Brain - Reaction

The lingua franca is ionic currents, which help the brain perform a particular reaction, needed for something as basic as sending a signal to breathe. Detecting ions means also detecting the concentration of a molecule, which serves as an indicator of the brain's health.

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers demonstrate the ability of a quantum material to automatically receive hydrogen when placed beneath an animal model's brain slice. Quantum means that the material has electronic properties that both can't be explained by classical physics, and that give it a unique edge over other materials used in electronics, such as silicon.

Edge - Case - Electrons - Material - Tunable

The edge, in this case, is strong, "correlated" electrons that make the material extra sensitive and extra tunable.

"The goal is to bridge the gap between how electronics think, which is via electrons, and how the brain thinks, which is via ions. This material helped us find a potential bridge," said Hai-Tian Zhang, a Gilbreth postdoctoral fellow in Purdue's College of Engineering and first author on the paper.

Run - Material - Ability - Brain - Researchers

In the long run, this material might even bring the ability to "download" your brain, the researchers say.

"Imagine putting an electronic device in the brain, so that when natural brain functions start deteriorating, a person could still retrieve memories from that device," said Shriram Ramanathan, a Purdue professor of materials engineering whose lab specializes in developing...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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