By now, science has advanced far enough to find ways of replacing most parts of our body. We have prosthetic arms, prosthetic legs, and appear to be on the verge of makingfunctioning prosthetic eyes. However, the brain is a lot more complex than a limb. Making a brain prosthesis is far from a straightforward task, and we are a long way from making fully-functional brain replacements. Nevertheless, we are taking significant leaps forward on that front, with a so-called “neural prosthesis” that has been shown to restore brain function after traumatic head injury.
In a proof-of-concept study, scientists cut off communication between areas of a rat’s brain,simulating a traumatic brain injury. The study’s 16 rats lost almost all function in their forelimbs. Some were left untreated; others were given a device that randomly stimulated different areas of the brain. A third group of rats were fitted with the neural prosthesis, which created a bridge between the two disconnected areas of the brain.
Results were convincing. After two weeks, the neural prosthesis groupregained brain functionto such an extent that “their movements were indistinguishable from their behavior before their brain injury.” The implanted brain-machine-brain interface basically allowed for the two disconnected areas of the brain to properly communicate with each other once again. Researchers hope that this study leads to the creation of a similar prosthesis to treat brain injury and stroke trauma in humans. Combined, these types of injuries—in US alone—affect almost three million people.