Instrument utilizing sensory electrical signals from pain-relieving acupunctures

 

This is the work I did for SKAC science fair. SKAC, short for Southern Korean Activities Conference, is an organization from International schools based in South Korea. Around 10 international schools all over Korea gather together and compete in various fields.

I presented this in my sophomore year of high school and won first place with this project in the Computers / Engineering division.

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Furthermore, I have presented this project (again, as a sophomore) in KSEF , short for Korea Science & Engineering Fair. KSEF is a very competitive nation-wide science fair in which students from all over South Korea present their work to judges as school representatives. There are 3 rounds for process of elimination, and the final groups are selected to become representatives of Korea to compete in International Fairs such as Intel ISEF, EUCYS, INESPO, and Genius Olympiad.
So far, I have passed the first round.

Title

Instrument utilizing sensory electrical signals from pain-relieving acupunctures

Background

Nervous system

The spinal cord is an extension of the brain through the vertebral column. It receives sensory information from every part of the body below the head, and uses this information for reflex responses to pain and also relays sensory information to the brain and its cerebral cortex. The forebrain. midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cortex form the central nervous system (CNS) which is one of the two divisions of the nervous system. The other division is the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which consists of nerves and small concentrations of gray matter called ganglia, a term used to describe structures in the PNS. Overall, the nervous system is a huge biological computing device in which the brain sends messages by the spinal cord to peripheral nerves throughout the body that control the muscles and internal organs.

Neurons

Messages are carried throughout the nervous system by individual units of its circuitry: neurons. Neurons are specialized cells designed to transmit information to other nerve cells, muscles, or gland cells. The mammalian brain contains between 100 million and 100 billion neurons depending on species, and the neuron’s structural and functional properties of interconnectedness is what makes a brain distinctly special. Each mammalian neuron consists of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. The cell body contains the nucleus and cytoplasm. The axon extends from cell body and branches out before ending at nerve terminals. Dendrites extend from the neuron cell body and receive messages from other neurons. Synapses are points in which one neuron comes into contact with another, thus being able to communicate. When neurons receive or send messages, they transmit electrical impulses along their axons, which can range in length from a centimeter to a meter.

Nerve impulses involve the opening and closing of ion channels, which are selectively permeable, water-filled molecular tunnels that allow ions (electrically charged atoms) or small molecules to leave or enter the cell. The flow of ions create an electrical current that produces tiny voltage changes across the neuron’s cell membrane.

The ability of a neuron to generate an electrical impulse is subject upon the difference in charge between the inside and outside of a cell. When a nerve impulse begins, a dramatic reversal in the electrical potential occurs in the cell membrane, and the neuron switches from an internal negative charge to a positive charge state. The change, called the action potential, then passes along the axon’s membrane. When the voltage change reaches the end of an axon, neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are released at nerve terminals to diffuse across the synapse and bind to receptors of the surface of a target cell. Each receptor has a distinctly shaped region that selectively recognizes a particular chemical messenger. When a transmitter has fit into its place as a key would fit into a lock, this interaction alters the target cell’s membrane potential and triggers a response from the target cell- contraction of a muscle, stimulation of enzyme activity, or inhibition of neurotransmitter release. The human body is a conductor and its neural activity or muscle contractions occur through electrical impulses. Thus, the body is heavily influenced under electrical currents.cymera_20170123_185215

source: TUV Rheinland of North America. Effects of Electrical Current in Human Body. Newtown: TUV Rheinland of North America, n.d. PDF.

What is Currently known about Acupunctures

The theory of acupunctures currently known is that it improves the body’s functions and promotes natural self- healing processes by stimulating specific anatomic sites, or acupoints. The traditional Chinese medicine is based on the ancient philosophy that when the universe and body, two opposing forces yin and yang, are in balance, the body is healthy. The constant flow of energy called qi keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked, disruption can lead to pain, weakness, or illness. Acupuncture therapy can release the blocked qi and stimulate function.

Graphene

Graphene is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It is the thinnest and lightest material known to man, and also the strongest with the best conductor of heat at room temperature. Furthermore, it is the best conductor of electricity known. Graphene is one of the few materials in the world that is simultaneously transparent, conductive and flexible. Due to these notable properties, engineers are striving to incorporate graphene into future technology. Although the existence of this material was known since a decade ago, it started to gain attention in 2010 when two physicists at University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for their experiments on it by isolating graphene for the first time using sticky tape.

Purpose

I want to find out if it is possible to alter the body’s response, or the “output”, by altering the electrical signals sent to the brain. Thus, I will experiment with an external stimuli – needles – to find out if it is possible to alter electrical current. I will experiment the needle’s effect on electrical flow on three different substances- radish, coke, chocolate, and speaker. Using this theory, I want to propose creating customized tools for individuals using 3D printing that utilizes external stimuli which can be used for hypotonia or anesthesia treatment.

Hypothesis 

I hypothesize that external stimuli which conduct electricity, such as needles used in acupuncture, can alter electrical flow in the body, and that this theory can be used to create customized tools incorporating micro needles made with graphene for individuals.

Materials

Radish, Coke, Chocolate, Speaker, Ammeter, Wires, Battery, 3D Printer, Acupuncture Needles 

Procedure

Use an ammeter to check the electrical flow of a material. Insert acupuncture needles increasingly one by one and record the changes in electric current. Give vibration to one needle and record the difference. Repeat for all materials. Use a 3D Printer and its program “Cube” to make a model of a bracelet. 

Recording changes in current flow of different conductive materials. cymera_20170123_185330

Detecting changes in vibration2

Using 3D Printer to create a tool 3

Process

4

Checking if it is possible to create a tool fit for each individual using 3D printer7

Data Analysis

111

I decided to experiment the effect of the acupuncture needles with radish, coke, and chocolate because they contained substances that were in the body. Radish is a solid with high moisture content, and coke and chocolate contain high amounts of glycogen. I decided to experiment with the speaker as well because I wanted to test the affects of the acupuncture needles on vibration (decibels). There certainly were changes to electric current with each acupuncture needle for all materials. I found out that the current value increased with each needle most of the time and that vibration had the biggest effect on increasing the current value.

I was only able to make a model of the customized tool that would be used for individuals using 3D Printing because I did not have the resources, but I was successful in creating the structure of micro chips. This proves that with improved technology, we can make devices with micro protrusions of graphene.

Conclusion

From the background research, I found out that the brain interprets external stimuli and sends output signals to muscles. I wanted to know if it was possible to synthetically alter the output signal, and experimented on the effects of a conductive material, needles, and its effect on other materials. By recording the changes of current on each material with every increase of a needle, I was able to conclude that it was indeed possible to alter the output signal. With this finding, I wanted to create a device that acted as external stimuli to alter people’s bodily electrical flow. I wanted to make a way possible to make a customized tool for an individual’s body shape in hope that this would be able to reduce long-time consumption of drugs or surgery. Therefore, I created a bracelet using 3D printing and theorized that we should make micro bulges with graphene instead of using needles due to high conductivity, flexibility, and strength. Although I could not make a 3D printed bracelet with microchips of graphene because I lacked the material and my 3D Printer was not technologically advanced enough, I think I came to a meaningful conclusion in that there is an alternative method to treating hypotonia and anesthesia.

Citations
“How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion and Emotional Well-being.” UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine. UC San Diego, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Society For Neuroscience, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and The Kavli Foundation, comps. Brain Facts. Washington, DC: Brainfacts.org, n.d. Brainfacts.org. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
TUV Rheinland of North America. Effects of Electrical Current in Human Body. Newtown: TUV Rheinland of North America, n.d. PDF.
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