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This chapter focuses on the plasticity now known to be possible in the motor regions of the brain. It explores the recent findings regarding motor cortex plasticity and reorganization. The most common approach taken to investigate the potential for cortical plasticity has been to evaluate the reorganization of sensory and motor maps following peripheral or central lesions and compare them to normal animals. The chapter also explores the structure of the motor cortex and how it relates to plasticity. The motor cortex contains a neural circuitry conducive to motor plasticity, which includes both intrinsic and extrinsic components. The chapter presents an overview of the development in a new field of rehabilitation, neural prostheses, also called brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). Neural prostheses open an important window into plasticity by allowing detailed research into how the brain changes with practice and learning and the extent to which the brain is able to adapt.
Translational research: application to human neural injury
Gerald E. Loeb, Department of Biomedical Engineering and the A.E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA,
Cesar E. Blanco, Department of Biomedical Engineering and the A.E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
This chapter deals with the neural prosthetic devices that integrate directly with the nervous system. The individual computational elements of the nervous system, neurons, are physically small in diameter, allowing them to be packed together into dense nerve tracts and nuclei. In order to achieve biomimetic function, it is desirable to exchange information with neurons on a similar spatial scale. Improving the biomimetic function of a neural prosthesis generally depends on packing yet more electrodes and signal processing functionality into ever-smaller places in the body from which they are not easily retrieved. The seemingly mundane requirements for packaging are likely to remain limiting factors in the clinical performance of neural prostheses. Many neurological deficits involve loss of function in central rather than peripheral pathways, such as inability to store or access information in various forms of dementia.
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