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 MIT researchers work to build implants to replace stroke-damaged brain areas

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Date posted: 15/11/2005

Strokes are nasty things. They damage the brain, killing off neuronsin their thousands or millions, causing lasting, permanent loss of function in the computer which houses the mind.

Now, thanks to the fledgeling bio-neural technologies, there is the glimmer of hope for the millions worldwide who have suffered this dehabilitating condition

Researchers at MIT so far have demonstrated the ability to coax nerve cells to form networks in vitro. Before the brain cells can be implanted, however, they must be prepared for their new roles, in much the way that high school students must learn calculus if they hope to succeed in an MIT engineering course, says Nathan Wilson, a project collaborator and a postdoc in brain and cognitive sciences.

Cells intended to replace visual-processing areas of the brain, for example, need to be trained with signals similar to those sent by the eyes. In an important step in the research, researchers showed that cells grown in a dish and exposed to electrical impulses roughly similar to those from the eyes will respond to these signals by forming networks.

We may be 20 years from a functioning 'partial brain replacement' of the level necessary to respore full function to a damaged brain, according to the researchers. However, the process of learning how to make an implant is expected to ead to many basic science breakthroughs about the way brains work and repair themselves.

This information is invaluable to neuralprosthetic development and general brain research.

See the full Story via external site: www.technologyreview.com

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