Nanotechnology Application Neuroscience


Nanotechnology is defined as the technology and manufacture of small non-biological or biological objects that involve individual molecules or atoms, or are manipulated on the scale of 10 -9 meters (less than 100 nanometers) (Veloz-Castillo, West, Cordero-Arreola, Arias-Carrión, & Méndez-Rojas, 2016). These materials are usually designed to perform particular tasks, and the technology is being utilized in scientific disciplines like tissue engineering, molecular imaging, molecular biology, surface science, and microelectronics (Mattei & Rehman, 2015).

Due to the small size of nanotools and nanoparticles, medical applications of nanotechnology support the possibility that interventions of better control, higher precision, and minimal invasion can be done at the subcellular level, and provide more accurate control of intracellular networks than is currently in existence.

In neuroscience, a field that is involved in the understanding of nervous system functions and information processing, and the application of knowledge to treating neurological disorders, nanotechnology can be used to recognize cellular-level diseases during diagnosis, and deliver therapeutic compounds in the treatment of these conditions.

Historical Timeline and Predecessor Assessment

K. Eric Drexler (1986) wrote the first book in nanotechnology and credited technology for people’s ability to arrange atoms and manipulate them to create specific forms or perform particular functions. He recounted the progress that engineers were making in microelectronic technology and spoke of molecular technology, a new invention that will change the world by enabling people to handle individual molecules and atoms with precision and control. Regarding medicine, Drexler (1986) observed that genetic engineers were already paving the way for molecular technology by using modern gene synthesis machines that built orderly polymers with a level of precision that microelectronic engineers of the time could not achieve.

Before Dexter’s work, other scientists had seen the possibility of nanotechnology being real in the future, and after him, engineers invented devices that transformed theories into reality.

Year Milestones in Nanotechnology
1959 R. Feynman initiated the thought process.
1974 Taniguchi used the term nanotechnology for the first time.
1981 IBM invented the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.
1985 “Bucky Ball”
1986 K. Eric Drexler published the first book on nanotechnology.
1989 IBM made its logo using individual atoms.
1991 S. Iijima discovered the Carbon Nanotube.
1999 R. Freitas published the 1st book on nano medicine.
2000 Launching of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
2001 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology was awarded for developing theory of nanometer-scale electronic devices and for synthesis and characterization of carbon nanotubes and nano wires.
2002 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology was awarded for using DNA to enable the self-assembly of new structures and for advancing modeling molecular machine systems.
2003 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnolog was awarded for modeling the molecular and electronic structures of new materials and for integrating single molecule biological motors with nano-scale silicon devices.
2004 First policy conference on advanced nanotech was held. First center for nano mechanical systems was established, Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology was awarded for designing stable protein structures and for constructing a novel enzyme with an altered function.
2005-2010 Preparation of 3D Nano systems like robotics, 3D networking and active nano products that change their state during use.
2011 Era of molecular nano technology started.

Source: Nikalje A. P. (2015, p.82).

Before the 20th Century

Nanoporous ceramic filters were being used to separate viruses. Albert Einstein and Max Planck (1900 cited in Krukemeyer, Krenn, Huebner, Wagner, & Resch, 2015) produced evidence that there had to be a series of tiny particles that obeyed their own laws although there were no instruments at the time to make these elements visible.

20th Century

In 1902 Richard Zsigmondy and Henry Siedentopf developed an ultramicroscope that used ruby glasses to detect structures that were smaller than 4 nanometers (Krukemeyer et al., 2015). Zsigmondy created an immersion ultramicroscope in 1912 which investigated the behavior colloidal solutions. After that, scientists got better resolutions with the transmission electron microscope (TEM), the filed ion microscope (FIM), and the voltage clamp so that they were able to understand DNA and RNA by the 1960s (Krukemeyer et al., 2015). In 1980, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer created the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), and future applications of their methods made it possible to demonstrate nanoscale structures accurately, and to position and manipulate them in a controlled manner (Krukemeyer et al., 2015). It opened up the possibilities of new scientific disciplines including nanomedicine.

By the time Drexler (1986) wrote his book, biochemists were using gene machines to write DNA tapes so they could direct cells and build designed proteins. However, they could not design chains that fold up to create proteins of the correct shape and function. Drexler (1986) believed the problem was that the scientists were focused on predicting the fold patterns of natural proteins instead of taking on an engineering challenge and designing proteins so they can fold predictably. He was certain that the protein-folding solution would allow biotechnologists to deal with individual atoms, which is central to nanotechnology.

Social Impact of Nanotechnology

There has been a lot of interest in nanotechnology and its applications since the idea was coined in 1959, and the investments that companies and countries put in the process are expected to increase drastically in future. Currently, carbon nanotubes and graphene are the most followed nanomaterials on Facebook, and most users are interested in the nanotechnology (58,188) and nanomedicine (5,366) pages (Sechi, Bedognetti, Sgarella, Van Eperen, Marincola, Bianco, & Delogu, 2014).

Graphene, carbon nanotubes, and quantum dots are the most liked nanomaterials on Facebook (2,683, 1,433, and 160), have the most number of groups on the site (16, 7, and 5), and the highest number of members in those groups (288, 414, and 170) respectively (Sechi et al. 2014). However, the public and international institutiona are concerned that nanomaterials have negative effects on the environment and human health so they advocate for industry regulations.

Campbell, Deane, and Murphy (2015) believe that people think of nanotechnology as a frontier culture, and that is why it has excited their cultural imagination. Since nanotechnology is being used in outfits, medicine, and numerous services, it affects everyone. Analyzing the development of nanotechnology in the society using Piaget’s theory of cognitive development:

Developmental Stage Nanotechnology
Sensorimotor stage Scientists learn about the basics ofnanotechnology, how to use the scanning tunneling microscope and they discover the first carbon nanotube as the pioneer authors on the topic publicize the concept (Nikalje, 2015).
Preoperational stage IBM create their logo using individual atoms, and the simplified feature help people to grasp the physical impact of nanotechnology and star building devices for storage, biosensors, and computer chips (IBM, 2009).
Concrete operations Nanotechnologists realize that they can implement the new technology in both the service and product industries like food nutrition, social security, renewable energy, quality education, communications, neuromedicine, health care services, and advertising (Aithal & Aithal, 2016).
Formal operations Scientists play the first nano guitar even though its sound cannot be conceived by the human ear, and create usable revolutionary sports equipment and outfits, and successful drug delivery systems used to treat neurodegenerative disorders (PRI, 2014, McNamee, 2011, Taylor, 2008, Nikalje, 2015).

Table 1: Analysis of nanotechnology’s development using Piaget’s theory.

Cultural Impact of Nanotechnology

According to a report published by Seear, Petersen, and Bowman (2009), between 1997 and 2004, the United States of America spent more than the European Union (EU) did on R&D for nanotechnology. In 2004 alone, the US spent $1 billion more than EU countries, and America leads in the field since it has world class universities that pioneer research. For example, the first nano guitar was built at Cornell University, New York in 1997 (McNamee, 2011), and in 2015, researchers at Berkeley Lab US developed an ultra-thin invisibility cloak which hides 3D objects from detection (Dockrill, 2015). Words that were introduced into the English language through such research include nanoparticles, bionanotechnology, and silver nanoparticles, and artists and musical groups were using variations of these terms on Facebook (Sechi et al. 2014).

In 1989 when Don Eigler and his team at IBM realized that they could use the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to arrange individual atoms on a surface with precision, Eigler used 35 xenon atoms to write the company logo (IBM, 2009). The exercise was a nanoscience and technology breakthrough, so IBM took some credit for Eigler’s work and the invention of the STM, as its scientists continued working on more nanotechnology inventions (IBM, 2009).

The images of this logo taken by Eigler pioneered the work of California-based scientist and artist Cris Orfescu who uses a scanning electron microscope to get nanoscale images of landscapes he calls ‘nanoart’ (PRI, 2014). Orfescu prints these electron scans on canvas and uses the creations to inform people about nanotechnology in the 21st Century while using his online nanoart contest to encourage nanotechnologists to embrace the new science as an art form (Feder, 2008).

Engineering Professor at Michigan University, John Hart, used 150 million vertically positioned carbon nanotubes to create each face in this image called Nanobama in 2008. (PRI, 2014)

Nanotechnology has also been used to design ultra-lightweight swimwear that absorbs water to only 2% of fabric weight compared to previous materials which absorbed 50%, and to create tennis racquets that are 22% more powerful than conventional ones, and twice as stable (Taylor, 2008). Nanotechnology helps designers to make athletic shoes since they are able to use molecular-sized particles to achieve maximum durability and comfort. During the 2008 Olympic Games, Jeremy Wariner used such a shoe designed by Adidas, and it was called ‘Lone Star spike’ because it was said to provide Wariner with increased flexibility, safety, better torsion, comfort, and more stability even as it reduced energy loss (Taylor, 2008).

Economic Impact

The industries that are utilizing nanotechnology include food, drinking water, energy, cosmetics, medicine, sport, automobiles, construction, banking, mass communication, retailing, hospitality, and entertainment (Aithal & Aithal, 2016). With the increase in the nanotechnology patents applied for in different industries across the world, it is expected that the StatNano database will expand substantially over the next five years.

Global Value of nanomaterials, pessimistic view (a) and optimistic view (b) (USD billion)

Source: Inshakova & Inshakov, 2017

According to this data published by Inshakova and Inshakov (2017) shows that NN-related publications have increased from 16,397 in 2000 to 128,436 in 2014. Both developed and developing industries are participating in the development of nanotechnological applications, with China leading (233,250) in the number of articles it has published between 2000 and 2014, followed by the USA (201, 203), and then Japan (81,516) (Inshakova & Inshakov, 2017). This number also indicates the amount of resources that these countries are dedicating to the advance of nanotechnology in their respective areas, and their willingness to regulate the industry while taking advantage of the opportunities available in science.

Nanotechnology Environmental and Political Impact

The development of specific applications for each field in the business world has made it easier for regulators to measure the actual effect that nanotechnology has in different areas. The industrial prototyping and commercialization of nanotechnology started back in 2000 with the first generation nanostructures being passive, the second generation being active, the third generation being systems, and the fourth generation being molecular nanosystems (Seear, Petersen, & Bowman, 2009).

By 2008, analysts had not yet seen the harmful effects that would have arisen due to exposure to nanotechnology in terms of ecological damage or harm to humans (Seear, Petersen, & Bowman, 2009). However, they were of the opinion that it is best to address the expected risks of nanotechnology by tightening the regulations that govern nanotechnology and its applications across the globe. Those who participated in the study held by Sechi et al. (2014) also felt that it would be safer for the environment if the international community came together to ensure that governments did not create anything related to nanotechnology that will endanger people and their surroundings.


Aithal, P. S., & Aithal, S. (2016). Business Strategy for Nanotechnology based Products and Services. Munich Personal RePEc Archive, MPRA Paper No. 71766.

Dockrill, P. (2015). Watch: Nano:sized invisibility cloak can make small objects disappear. Science Alert.

IBM (2009). IBM celebrates 20th anniversary of moving atoms. IBM News Releases.

Inshakova, E., & Inshakov, O. (2017). World market for nanomaterials: structure and trends. In MATEC Web of Conferences (Vol. 129, p. 02013). EDP Sciences.

McNamee, D. (2011). Hey, what’s that sound: Nano guitar. The Guardian.

PRI (2014). Scientists are becoming artists, thanks to ‘NanoArt’. Public Radio International.

Sechi, G., Bedognetti, D., Sgarrella, F., Van Eperen, L., Marincola, F. M., Bianco, A., & Delogu, L. G. (2014). The perception of nanotechnology and nanomedicine: a worldwide social media study. Nanomedicine9(10), 1475-1486.

Seear, K., Petersen, A., & Bowman, D. (2009). The social and economic impacts of nanotechnologies: A literature review. Final Report Prepared for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Monash University Victoria, Australia. Taylor, D. (2008). Nanotechnology in sports. EE453 Project Report.

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Basic Cognitive Neuroscience Diseases

Basic Cognitive Neuroscience Diseases

Cognitive neuroscience is the study of the neurobiological substrates which is responsible for human cognition and seeks to reveal the neural circuits hidden in the human mental processes. This included learning, perception about things and events, and attention. The focus of the cognitive neuroscience researchers understands the brain mechanism responsible for auditory functions, musical processing and emotional exhibitions (Mataró, 2017).

Cognitive neuroscience also seeks to understand the neural mechanisms that enable predictive processes and the effects they might have on perception. It also sees to how the predictions that were formulated can influence the understanding of our environment. It is also included in this study, the calculation strategies used in solving arithmetical problems, and the level of difficulties that mathematics enthusiasts face when engaged in numerical analysis.

Neuropsychology is a clinical application of findings in the field of neuroscience. It seeks to know how brain disorders or brain injuries can cause a defect in cognitive functions and human behavior. Another area in neuroscience is the analysis which happened to cognitive ability resulting from aging and deteriorative illness, and also the mechanism used in brain reorganization following a fatal brain injury (Mataró, 2017). It studies how cognitive function can be improved in patients who have slight cognitive deficiency through the use of non-invasive stimulated techniques. Part of the neuro-scientific studies is finding out the effects of cerebrovascular diseases and that of the neuroprotective interventions in neurobiological mechanisms such as cognitive training and physical exercises.

Other research areas have their focus on the differentiating factors in central nervous system functioning of people with normal weight and obese (overweight), as well as the coexistence of severe mental disorders and substance use disorders. It also does the analysis of learning disorders such as nonverbal learning disability and dyslexia.

Some of the techniques used by neuroscientists include genetic studies, cognitive test, and neuro-imaging techniques likes of magnetic resonance imaging.

Neuro-imaging is conceived as techniques which are used in producing brain images without necessarily performing surgery on patients with brain damages or problems, nor cutting of the skin, or any form of contact with the endo-body (Jnguyen, 2012).

Neuro-imaging techniques give doctors and neuroscientists the clear view of activities and problems occurring in the brain without carrying out brain surgery on the patient (Demitri, 2016). There are more than five safe neuro-imaging techniques used in medical facilities throughout the world, but three are most common. These techniques include; functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Computerized Tomography (CT), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) (Jnguyen, 2012). Others include electroencephalography (EEG), Magnetoencephalography (MEG), and Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) (Demitri, 2016).

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a technique of measuring the activities of the brain, through the analysis of how blood is flowing in the brain. An MRI scanner detects changes in blood oxygenation and flow that occurs as a result of neural activity. This is because, when the brain is at work, it uses more oxygen at the active area. (Demitri, 2016).

A functioning MRI scanner uses a strong electromagnet which helps to generate forms strong magnetic field within the scanner. It causes randomly spinning protons in the brain which align with the direction of the field. Also, the proton will continue to spin while they are in alignment and exhibits a wobbling top behavior. The frequency of their wobbling is referred to as resonance.

The protons, when placed in a strong magnetic field and energy, is delivered to them at a particular resonant frequency, they will absorb energy with a great efficiency. In MRI, radio waves are used to provide the force needed to make the protons move (Jnguyen, 2012).

The benefits of using fMRI include the fact that it does not involve radioactivity, and there have been no reports of side effects resulting from the use of magnetic field and radio waves. Also, fMRI is not expensive, non-invasive, and readily available and provide a wide range of excellent temporal and partial resolution.

Computerized Tomography (CT)

Computerized tomography is a neuroimaging technique that makes use of x-rays in generating pictures of the inside of the body. It gives a picture of the human brain in accordance with the differential absorption of x-rays. It has been used widely in medical diagnosis to plan, guide and monitor brain therapy.

A computerized tomography makes use of X-rays placed at different angles to produce images of the human brain.

When conducting computerized tomography scans, a movable x-ray source will be rotated around the subject’s head. Detectors are put in place to record the intensity of the rays that are transmitted while the computer simultaneously combines the snapshots taken by the movable x-ray machine and arrange them to form a 3D cross-sectional image. This can be used by the doctors and researcher to get more information about the brain (Jnguyen, 2012).

Cognitive Neuroscience Diseases Dissertation
Cognitive Neuroscience Diseases Dissertation

Advantageously, computerized tomography scan is painless, cost effective and fast in usage. It can provide images of bones, tissues and blood vessels simultaneously. However, the patient is exposed to the risk of cancer as result of exposure to radiation from the x-ray scanner.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Positron Emission Tomography uses tracers or radioactivity labeled molecules in the blood stream which have been taken up by active neurons. When these materials become decay as a result of radioactivity, a positron will be emitted; this can be picked up by the detector. PET studies the flow of blood through the brain and the metabolic activities of the brain which helps to picture changes in biochemical processes of the brain (Demitri, 2016). PET is however used to indicate whether the brain is functioning properly.

The trace is a substance like glucose which can be broken down into the activities of cells in the body, where it is labeled with a radioactive isotope. The risk involved is very low because the amount of radiation is low and the isotope can be easily removed from the body by urination.

When the tracer is introduced into the bloodstream, the isotope will start to decay which makes it less radioactive later. During this process, a positron is released, and when it collides with an electron, it will produce gamma ray as a result of the positron and electron eliminating one another. The two produced gamma rays will travel in opposite directions and they will try to leave the patient’s body. These rays can then be detected by two detectors set at 1800 from each other, and it is recorded as a coincidence event. The computer will then determine the source of the gamma rays in the subject’s brain and then generate a 3D image.

As an added advantage, PET can detect other diseases in the body system which often occurs before one can observe the changes in the anatomy. Also, the movement of the subject does not affect the quality of the output, although the image may not be very clear in some cases. Also, the use of radiation can be injurious to the subject’s health.

These are some of the popular techniques used by neuroscientists in neuroimaging, all of them have their own advantage and their disadvantages. However, they are used in the treatment of neuro-diseases such as Alzheimer, Dementia, and Parkinson.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease has been found to be a generic cause of dementia, and it has been confirmed to be responsible for about 50% of identified dementia cases. This is because a loss of memory is the symptom that is mostly identified with affected patients (EssayEmpire, 2017).

 Alzheimer is known to be a progressive and degenerative disease known to cause sporadic regression in the cognitive ability of an individual. It is identified by the prevalence of neuron and synapse loss. It often leads to the appearance of plaques and tangles (B-amyloid and tau aggregate) in the human brain (Bussey, 2015).

The German physician and neuropathologist, Alois Alzheimer was the first to identify the presence of plaques and tangles in the human brain. In 1907, he carried out an autopsy on a woman who died of dementia, and he discovered the occurrence of histopathologic alterations in form of neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques.

Another characteristic of this disease is the change in the function of the affective domain; the patient tends to be partial in judgment and reasoning. In addition, the patient may have a defect in his language function, constructional abilities.


Dementia is a gradual and persistent occurrence of deterioration in the cognitive function of human brain. It affects the intellectual abilities and behavioral pattern of an individual. It can affect the individual’s ability to excel in certain daily activities like housekeeping, driving, attending social functions, keeping daily sales record etc. Changes are also noticed in personality and the individual’s emotions (CNADC, 2017).

As against the widespread beliefs, dementia is not peculiar to aging, it results from diseases which affect the brain. The influence of dementia is felt on all aspects of mind and behavioral pattern, including language ability, ability to give concentrations, visual perception, temperament, memory, sound judgment ability, social interaction etc.

Dementia should however not be perceived as a single disease, it is a combination of signs and symptoms indicating multiple diseases or even injury in the brain (CNADC, 2017).

Parkinson Disease

Parkinson disease is a disorder caused by degeneration of the nervous system and affects the mostly the motor system (NINDS, 2016). It cannot be easily detected as the symptom comes very slowly as one grows in age. The first sets of signs that occur include shaking of the arms and legs, difficulty in walking and slow movement. With this is thinking and behavioral problems, depression, and anxiety are also noticed with people suffering from Parkinson disease. Also, Parkinson patients tend to suffer a lack of sleep, sensory problems and emotional problems (Sveinbjornsdottir, 2016).

The causes of Parkinson disease has been traced to both genetic and environmental factors. They are easily transferred among generations especially in families where it has been occurring. Also, when an individual is exposed to some form of pesticides or he has a brain injury, he is likely to have Parkinson disease. However, smoking tobacco or consuming coffee does not really have any effect on the likelihood of suffering from the disease (Kalia & Lang, 2015).


Bussey, T. (2015) Alzheimer’s Disease. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from Translational Cognitive Neuroscience Lab.

CNADC. (2017) Memory, Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from Northwestern Medicine | Northwestern University.

Demitri, M. (2016, July 17) Types of Brain Imaging Techniques. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from Psych Central.

EssayEmpire. (2017) Alzheimer’s Disease Research Paper. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from Research Paper.

Jnguyen. (2012, April 02) Neuroimaging. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education.

Kalia, L., & Lang, A. (2015) Parkinson’s disease. Lancet (London, England), 896 – 912.

Mataró, M. (2017) Cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from Institut de Neurociencies.

NINDS. (2016, June 30). Parkinson’s Disease Information Page. Retrieved July 18, 2016

Sveinbjornsdottir, S. (2016) The Clinical Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neurochemistry, 318 – 324.

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