Lawrence Livermore believes its devices and surgical methods can be expanded for future applications in deep brain and spinal cord simulation, which will enable physicians to advance neural prosthetics to the next level of human health and rehabilitation. In fact, Lawrence Livermore is currently developing neural implants that will restore auditory, motor, and bladder function; aid speech; and control depression and epilepsy.
Each year, the National Institutes of Health spends $6.5 million on neural prosthetics R&D, and today several of the most prestigious medical research institutions in the U.S. ? Case Western University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology among them ? are engaged in promising clinical studies.
Many medical scientists believe the sky is the limit for neural prosthetics, but ultimately it is the engineering community that will need to design and fabricate devices that enable the realization of the promise of neural modulation for patients and their families.
Says Felix: “There exist many engineering considerations with neural prosthetics, particularly in the interface of the device with human tissue. Engineers must think about a complete range of issues, from electrode materials and the lifetime of the implant to electronics and signal processing. This will be an intriguing pathway of multidisciplinary scientific and engineering development for many years to come.”
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