Using portable neural stimulation to rewire the brain
Brain-machine interfaces typically involve inserting invasive electrodes into the brain to read out neural activity or stimulate central structures. These signals are then decoded to provide a neural prosthesis - an artificial pathway which somehow compensates for lost function. In this talk, I will suggest that this approach 'misses a trick', because it ignores two useful features of the nervous system. The first is that, especially for the motor system, there are extensive connections with the periphery. These can allow us to activate or record in straightforward, non-invasive ways. There is no need for an electrode in the head. Secondly, the brain shows remarkable ability for plastic changes. Rather than trying to circumvent a deficit with an engineering solution, we should be exploiting plasticity to rewire defective circuits to restore function. I will illustrate this view with some examples taken from our recent work, which show the potential of this approach.
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