A wonderful, almost science fiction-like, story was reported in the New York Times about scientists who have designed a brain implant that improves lost mental capacity and decision making abilities in primates. Although years away from commercial development this offers a glimpse into future technology that potentially can be applied to those with dementia, strokes, or other brain injuries. The research, initially published in the Journal of Neural Engineering, comes out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California.
The device works by fine-tuning communication between neurons in the cerebral cortex. Researchers implanted a tiny probe into the cerebral cortex and then trained five rhesus monkeys to play a picture-game over a course of years. The implanted device was able to record particular neuronal patterns that correlated with correct picture selections. The monkeys’ brains were then deliberately damaged with cocaine, which led to an expected drop in their ability to pick the correct pictures. The implanted device, when activated, transmitted the learned neural patterns to their brain, restoring their ability to choose the appropriate images and even improving it slightly.
Although in its early stages, this may serve as a future method to bypass damaged areas in the brain and help those suffering from debilitating brain conditions. Although a long road, the future is bright.
Study in Journal of Neural Engineering: Facilitation and restoration of cognitive function in primate prefrontal cortex by a neuroprosthesis that utilizes minicolumn-specific neural firing