Scientists have designed a brain implant that sharpened decision making and restored lost mental capacity in monkeys, providing the first demonstration in primates of the sort of brain prosthesis that could eventually help people with damage from dementia, strokes or other brain injuries. The device, though years away from commercial development, gives researchers a model for how to support and enhance fairly advanced mental skills in the frontal cortex of the brain, the seat of thinking and planning.
The technology used in the study could easily be contained on an implantable chip, Dr. Deadwyler said, and it is possible to envision a system that could help people with brain damage.
“The whole idea is that the device would generate an output pattern that bypasses the damaged area, providing an alternative connection” in the brain, he said.
Many hurdles remain. Decision making, like memory, is a multifaceted process that involves many neural circuits, depending on the decision being made.
A device focused on just one circuit is likely to be very limited. But not long ago, even a simple neural prosthesis would have seemed like science fiction.”