Neural prosthesis restores brain function after injury (w/ Video)

December 9, 2013

Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and University of Kansas Medical Center have restored behavior—in this case, the ability to reach through a narrow opening and grasp food—using a neural prosthesis in a rat model of brain injury.

Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a device that rapidly and substantially improves function after injury in humans. There is no such commercial treatment for the 1.5 million Americans, including soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or the nearly 800,000 stroke victims who suffer weakness or paralysis in the United States, annually.

The prosthesis, called a brain-machine-brain interface, is a closed-loop microelectronic system. It records signals from one part of the brain, processes them in real time, and then bridges the injury by stimulating a second part of the brain that had lost connectivity.

Their work is published online this week in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"If you use the device to couple activity from one part of the brain to another, is it possible to induce recovery from TBI? That's the core of this investigation," said Pedram Mohseni, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Case Western Reserve, who built the brain prosthesis.

The video will load shortly
Credit: Case Western Reserve University

"We found that, yes, it is possible to use a closed-loop neural prosthesis to facilitate repair of a brain injury," he said.

The researchers tested the prosthesis in a of in the laboratory of Randolph J. Nudo, professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas. Nudo mapped the rat's brain and developed the model in which anterior and posterior parts of the brain that control the rat's forelimbs are disconnected.

Atop each animal's head, the brain-machine-brain interface is a microchip on a circuit board smaller than a quarter connected to microelectrodes implanted in the two brain regions.

The device amplifies signals, which are called neural action potentials and produced by the neurons in the anterior of the brain. An algorithm separates these signals, recorded as brain spike activity, from noise and other artifacts. With each spike detected, the microchip sends a pulse of electric current to stimulate neurons in the posterior part of the brain, artificially connecting the two .

The video will load shortly
Credit: Case Western Reserve University

Two weeks after the prosthesis had been implanted and run continuously, the rat models using the full closed-loop system had recovered nearly all function lost due to injury, successfully retrieving a food pellet close to 70 percent of the time, or as well as normal, uninjured rats. Rat models that received random stimuli from the device retrieved less than half the pellets and those that received no stimuli retrieved about a quarter of them.

"A question still to be answered is must the implant be left in place for life?" Mohseni said. "Or can it be removed after two months or six months, if and when new connections have been formed in the brain?"

Brain studies have shown that, during periods of growth, neurons that regularly communicate with each other develop and solidify connections.

Mohseni and Nudo said they need more systematic studies to determine what happens in the brain that leads to restoration of function. They also want to determine if there is an optimal time window after injury in which they must implant the device in order to restore function.

Explore further: Brain implant aims to stifle drug highs

More information: "Restoration of function after brain damage using a neural prosthesis," by David J. Guggenmos et al. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1316885110

Related Stories

Brain implant aims to stifle drug highs

July 29, 2013
What happens if addicts get no high from the drugs they take? Researchers at Case Western Reserve and Illinois State universities have received a $390,000 National Institute on Drug Abuse grant to help answer the question.

Could a 'Trojan horse' better identify traumatic brain injury?

October 28, 2013
Accurately diagnosing traumatic brain injuries and concussions is difficult, as standard CT or MRI scans can't see most changes to the brain caused by these injuries.

Stem cells help repair traumatic brain injury by building a 'biobridge'

October 3, 2013
University of South Florida researchers have suggested a new view of how stem cells may help repair the brain following trauma. In a series of preclinical experiments, they report that transplanted cells appear to build a ...

Improvement of mood associated with improved brain injury outcomes

November 25, 2013
Mayo Clinic researchers found that improvement of mood over the course of post-acute brain rehabilitation is associated with increased participation in day-to-day activities, independent living, and ability to work after ...

Have a brain injury? You may be at higher risk for stroke

June 26, 2013
People who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more likely to have a future stroke, according to research that appears in the June 26, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of ...

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

semmsterr
not rated yet Dec 10, 2013
Could the technique be used to enhance normal brain function?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.