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Thought Transfer – What is Neuroprosthesis?  · Inserm, Science for Health

Thought Transfer – What is Neuroprosthesis? · Inserm, Science for Health

Some people dream of a future where just thinking about it will trigger an email or play their favorite music. But to achieve this, you will still need to be equipped with a neural prosthesis – and we are also talking about a neuron implant or a brain-machine interface. To date, these devices have been developed for patients with significant disabilities. The risks associated with their use still far from offset the benefits that can be derived from them outside of very specific medical conditions.

Neuroprosthetics are electronic devices designed to be directly connected to the nervous system and enable the operation of prosthetics or devices intended to replace a defective organ or lost function. They can be used to overcome sensory deficits, such as certain forms of blindness or deafness. In this case, they work by transmitting information captured in the environment to the brain (using a camera or microphone), as with sensory cells in the retina or inner ear. But neuroprosthetics can also work in the opposite direction, by picking up neural signals, for example in brain areas involved in motor skills or speech: once these signals are decoded, they will make it possible to control a chair, a robotic arm, or a prosthetic limb. Or an exoskeleton, a singer…

Concretely, neuroprosthesis involves a network of electrodes that are placed in contact with nervous tissue, to stimulate or record the activity of neurons involved in the target function (sight, vision, motor skills, language, etc.). In addition, there is a communications system that sends information to the electrodes or receives that recorded at the nerve cell level, in addition to a processing device (encoding/decoding) of the collected data. As we can easily imagine, developing these implants is not easy at all! Ideally, a neural prosthesis should include as many electrodes as possible, in order to record or stimulate as many neurons as possible. But the implant must remain small and flexible to be inserted without damaging nerve tissue. Obviously, he should not cause rejection, and has every interest in having the longest life possible. Another important point, its operation should not cause a harmful rise in local temperature, which could lead to the burning of our nerve cells…

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However, research is progressing, both regarding neurosensory prosthetics with cochlear implants and artificial retina, and regarding brain-machine interfaces, especially for people with quadriplegia or locked-in syndrome. (Engaged in symptoms). Recently, as part of the Franco-Swiss cooperation, a team Insrm Participated in developing a Neuroprosthetics aimed at correcting gait disorders associated with Parkinson's disease