Narrator: This is Science Today. Neural prostheses are artificial devices used to replace lost nervous system function. These devices work with the brain to control function of the artificial device, such as a prosthetic arm or leg, by delivering electric stimulation to the brain. Dr. Mike Merzenich of the University of California, San Francisco has led pioneering studies over the years that reveal how the brain can learn to rewire itself in response to new conditions – even during adulthood and aging.
Merzenich: We now know that the brain changes itself continuously and that change is manifested by our learning, by our progress in life. Every time we learn, basically the brain revises itself in detail and the neurological part of our accomplishments, of our progressions are expressed by that remodeling.
Narrator: The brain's ability to change, called plasticity, is being used by engineers and neuroscientists to develop ‘smart' neural prosthetic devices.
Merzenich: What you really want it to be controlled by is by you ; and what you really want it to be controlled by is by your brain. And the more sophisticated that control is, the better.Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.