Neuroscientists in the US have shown that behavior in brain damaged rats can be partially restored by using implants to bypass the injured area. The research is in its infancy, but the scientists believe a similar approach could one day be used to help people with traumatic brain injuries.
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, WICHITA, KANSAS,UNITED STATES (RECENT) (GUGGENMOS ET AL) - When faced with a challenge like gathering food from behind a barrier, a healthy rat uses its brain to great effect. But when the caudal forelimb in the rat's brain is injured, the animal struggles as it flails and grasps at the food within its reach. The caudal forelimb helps process signals that allow the rat to move its front legs. When it is comprised, the neural circuit that conveys instructions to the forelimbs breaks down.
In a study led by David Guggenmos (pron: Googen-mos), they built and connected a neuroprosthesis with one set of electrodes to record and transmit electric signals from the uninjured, sensory part of the brain, and another to receive the signals in the premotor cortex where they could be sent on to nerves in the forelegs, instructing them to move. The system bypassed the damaged caudal forelimb entirely.
The results, recorded on video, clearly demonstrate an improvement in the rat's ability to function when the prosthesis is switched on. When turned off, the injured rat loses its ability to fully control its forelimbs.
The scientists say the research indicates that it may one day be possible "to optimize brain stimulation approaches for therapeutic applications after brain injury."
By bypassing damage in the brains of stroke or brain trauma patients with signal-carrying prostheses, a degree of functionality and a better life, could be restored.