A neural implant developed by Sat Pannu, PhD, and a research team from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s Center for Bioengineering, is a small device designed to rewire damaged human brains. The implant, which is fitted with dozens of tiny microelectrodes, each of these brain implants is intended to monitor the electrical activity of brains devastated by mental illness or physical injury and provide the exact stimuli to help minds compensate for what they have lost, according to a news report from the Daily Democrat. The $5.6 million project, in the early stages of animal testing, is part of a range of brain research underway at Lawrence Livermore.

Members of the research team have found success with artificial retinal implants, and now Pannu’s Neural Technology group got a $2.5 million grant for a “neuroprosthetic” project that aims to combine neural implants with tiny computers to help restore lost memory function. Pannu says, “This technology allows us to interface with the brain using hundreds, if not thousands, of electrodes. If you had these devices implanted in the brain, you could record (neural activity) and see how therapies are working in real time.”

The Daily Democrat news report indicates that the work is being driven by a Defense Department interested in treating the rash of brain injuries emerging from modern warfare and President Barack Obama’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative. Justin Sanchez, PhD, program manager for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency states, “There’s a huge potential for this study to make a meaningful impact in those people who (sacrificed) for this country.”

Vanessa Tolosa, a member of the research team, says, “The brain is a huge black box that no one understands. Here, we’re going to get a better understanding of the brain, and we’re hoping to come up with therapies that work. The impact is huge.” The early version of the implant is being tested on animals to analyze how memory and speech are formed. The Defense Department hopes to have a prototype implant that can both record and modulate brain activity ready for FDA approval and testing on human subjects within 5 years, as noted on the Daily Democrat news report.

Photo Appears Courtesy of Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group

Source: Daily Democrat