An artificial cerebellum has restored lost brain function in rats, bringing the prospect of cyborg-style brain implants a step closer to reality. Such implants could eventually be used to replace areas of brain tissue damaged by stroke and other conditions, or even to enhance healthy brain function and restore learning processes that decline with age.
Cochlear implants and prosthetic limbs have already proved that it is possible to wire electrical devices into the brain and make sense of them, but such devices involve only one-way communication, either from the device to the brain or vice versa.
Now Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his colleagues have created a synthetic cerebellum which can receive sensory inputs from the brainstem — a region that acts as a conduit for neuronal information from the rest of the body. Their device can interpret these inputs, and send a signal to a different region of the brainstem that prompts motor neurons to execute the appropriate movement — via redwolf.newsvine.com