Carbon nanotubes, or hollow microscopic wires made of carbon (pictured), may one day replace some of the neurons in your brain. They could repair brain damage, or give a turbo boost to healthy brains.

A group of researchers in France and Italy have published a paper today in Nature Nanotechnology that carbon nanotubes can act as neural workarounds in the brain, forming tight contacts with the already-existing nerve cells and conducting electricity between them exactly the way neurons do with each other.

According to Henry Markram, a lead scientist on the project at Laboratory of Neural Microcircuitry in Switzerland:

The new carbon nanotube-based interface technology discovered together with state of the art simulations of brain-machine interfaces is the key to developing all types of neuroprosthetics — sight, sound, smell, motion, vetoing epileptic attacks, spinal bypasses, as well as repairing and even enhancing cognitive functions.

If we use technologies like this to cure Alzheimer's patients, we may wind up with a generation of hyper-intelligent seniors ready to invent the next brain-boosting technology.


Image of carbon nanotubes via Nanolab.