Scientists Use Prosthetic Device to Restore and Improve Impaired Decision-Making Ability in Animals
Imagine a prosthetic device capable of restoring decision-making in people who have reduced capacity due to brain disease or injury. While this may sound like science fiction, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have proven for the first time that it is possible in non-human primates, and believe that one day it will be possible in people.
In essence, the scientists used an electronic prosthetic system to tap into existing circuitry in the brain at the cellular level and record the firing patterns of multiple neurons in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in decision-making. They then “played” that recording back to the same brain area to electrically stimulate decision-based neural activity. Not only did it restore function, in some cases, it also improved it.
“The prosthetic device is like ‘flipping a switch’ to turn on a decision in real time,” said Sam Deadwyler, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist, and senior author of the study, which is published in the Sept.14 issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering.