Neuroscience Conference Foresees Cure for Blindness

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The Neuroscience Conference just took place in San Diego and according to the report by Bradley J. Fikes of NCTimes there are great hopes for  people that have blind or paralyzed conditions.

Neuroscience 2010

Blind people will see with near-normal vision and the paralyzed walk in an “exoskeleton” controlled by their thoughts, said researchers speaking at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual convention in San Diego.

More sophisticated two-way communication with the brain is making these achievements possible, first in animals and later in humans, after the devices have been tested for safety, the researchers said. Just how long this will take is unclear, though.

These ideas for what are called brain-machine interfaces were proven in principle years ago, and are being improved upon to the point of being practical, said Nick Spitzer, co-director of UC San Diego’s Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind.

“You can now hook up the brain and use nerve impulses in the brain to drive robotic arms, so people can pick up a cup and bring it over and drink it without pouring it all over their lap,” said Spitzer, a member of the team organizing the conference.

“In the San Diego area, where we have a lot of people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and earlier wars, military folks would be very interested in understanding what the future may hold in this regard,” Spitzer said.

A new artificial retina provides close to normal vision for animals by incorporating the “neural code” used for transmitting images through the optic nerve to the brain, said Sheila Nirenberg, an associate professor of physiology and biophysics of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, who helped develop the device. Previous artificial retinas, which didn’t use this code, did little more than distinguish between light and dark, Nirenberg said. The new retinal prosthesis “codes almost as well as the real retina,” she said.

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Source: Story Discussion TECHNOLOGY: Neuroscience conference foresees blindness cure, mobility for paralyzed By BRADLEY J. FIKES – bfikes@nctimes.com North County Times.

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