An Ottawa-based mechanical keyboard expert says the way we think can change with the crash of a motor vehicle.
The brain can play a critical role in how we react to our surroundings.
“The brain is like a computer,” said Steve Leitch, a mechanical keyboard designer and researcher who specializes in mechanical keyboards and is co-founder of the Canadian Brain Association.
“We’re using our brain to process information that we’re not even consciously aware of and to help us understand what is happening in our environment.”
Leitch has spent years trying to understand how the brain processes and processes information from the outside world.
When a crash occurs, the head of the motor vehicle that caused the crash sends a message to the brain telling it to slow down.
The brain responds by releasing a neurotransmitter, dopamine.
Dopamine is linked to pleasure and arousal and is known to be associated with reward.
“What we’re doing is creating a new neural network that will send signals to the part of the brain that is responsible for driving the motor vehicles in the world,” Leitch said.
Leitch’s research is using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record electrical signals from brain cells in the brainstem to identify the neural networks that are active during a crash.
“When a brainstem cell fires up, it sends electrical signals to a region in the motor cortex, and we can actually see where these brain cells are in the cortex, which is the part that is being stimulated,” he said.
In a crash, the motor brainstem sends the same signal to the spinal cord and spinal cord muscles, which in turn sends those signals to various regions of the body.
“These signals are then passed down to the muscle cells that are involved in moving muscles, and these muscles then contract to move the car,” Leick said.
“So in a crash that causes brain damage, we can see how the muscles respond.”
In the brain, motor neurons fire when the brain is in a particular state of arousal.
“We’re able to tell where the neurons are firing because we can measure their activity in the spinal fluid of the spinal cords,” he explained.
“And we can tell whether the motor neurons are active because we have these magnetic fields in the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient and we are able to measure the electrical activity of those motor neurons.”
In a study Leitch and his colleagues published in the Journal of Neuroscience, they found that brain activity was correlated with the brain activity in motor neurons during a brain scan in which they recorded the electrical signals generated by motor neurons in the patients brains during a motor crash.
The researchers then studied the activity of the same motor neurons that were activated in the brains of motor vehicle drivers during a simulated crash to determine how the motor neuron activity differed between the drivers during and after a simulated collision.
“There’s a whole group of neural mechanisms that are activated when we’re in a situation of arousal,” Leinch said.
“So in the case of a simulated driver, we’ve found that the brain circuitry that controls the motor drive system in the car is very sensitive to when that driver is in arousal.”
Leitches research has shown that the motor control circuitry is activated in response to arousal and not the other way around.
“One of the things we’re seeing is that motor neurons activate when we are in a heightened state of awareness,” he added.
“When a driver is not in arousal, the activation of the neural circuitry is inhibited.”
In some cases, Leitch found that motor neuron activation in response is suppressed by drugs, like opioids, while others activated by a non-opioid drug, like benzodiazepines, did not change.
“But the fact that we can activate the motor network of motor neurons by administering an opiate or by administering benzodiazapine to people in a certain situation that we’ve identified does not mean that we don’t need to activate the brain’s neural circuitry to regulate those motor drive systems,” Leitches said.
The motor control circuit is also involved in regulating the brainwaves of patients who are experiencing seizures.
“If you have a seizure, there’s a lot of activity going on in the neural circuits of the cortex,” he noted.
“If you can’t control the activity, it may not have the same effect on those neurons.”
Leighs research has also shown that when people are injured, the circuits of their brainstem become more sensitive to what is going on with their motor systems.
When injured people experience a seizure they use the brainwave signals of the seizures to regulate their motor control systems, such as activating the motor cells in their spinal cord to move.
In the case study of Leitch’s team, patients with brain injuries were given an implant that gave them the ability to control their motor vehicles through their own brainwaves.
“This is not a drug that has any side effects,” Leitz said