Neuroprosthetics (also called Neural Prosthetics) is a discipline related to neuroscience and biomedical engineering concerned with developing neural prostheses, artificial implantable devices to replace or improve the function of an impaired nervous system.
Neuroprosthetics are the set of physical devices that interact with the brain or other neural tissue to augment, restore, or otherwise impact function.
Neuroprosthetics are electrical stimulation technologies that replace or assist damaged or malfunctioning neuromuscular organ systems and attempt to restore normal body processes, create or improve function, and/or reduce pain. These systems are either implanted or worn externally on the body. Such assistive devices range from intramuscular stimulation systems designed to limit limb atrophy in paralysis, to implanted bladder voiding systems and more complex implanted neuromuscular control.
The process of transitioning this technology into a clinically useful device will require two parallel paths of research.
In the first path, experimental paradigms involving microelectrode array recordings in behaving animals will be developed in conjunction with signal processing techniques for studying the unknown aspects of neural coding and functional neurophysiology. These signal processing techniques will then be implemented in portable, low-power, wireless hardware.
The second path, high-density array ECoG recordings in humans, provides a less invasive technique for neural interfaces however it still remains unknown how to extract BMI control signatures that are sufficiently spatially and temporally resolved.
Neuroprosthetics is an area of intense scientific and clinical interest and rapid progress. The word’ prosthesis’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘addition’. A breakdown of the word includes ‘pros’ meaning ‘to’, and ‘thesis’, meaning ‘a placing’.
Neuroprosthetic are in their infancy just now, but they offer two things that are truly wonderful:
1. Bypassing the body, and letting the mind interface directly with VR, for the ultimate immersive experience – the virtual body becomes as the normal functioning body
2. Augmented body parts will be able to be fitted to the body, and controlled by the brain as if you were born with them – after a little training, without conscious thought.
The first cochlear implant dates back to 1957. Other landmarks include the first motor prosthesis for foot drop in hemiplegic in 1961, the first auditory brainstem implant in 1977 and a peripheral nerve bridge implanted into spinal cord of adult rat in 1981.
Paraplegics were helped in standing with a lumbar anterior root implant (1988) and in walking with Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). Regarding the development of electrodes implanted in the brain, an early difficulty was reliably locating the electrodes, originally done by inserting the electrodes with needles and breaking off the needles at the desired depth. Recent systems utilize more advanced probes, such as those used in deep brain stimulation to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Over the past four decades, research in Neuroprosthetic has generated a handful of clinical successes and has gained lasting acceptance in the scientific community noteworthy advances have been made.