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  D. The Brain Guides the Development of 'Smart' Neural Prostheses

Narrator: This is Science Today. Neuroscientists and engineers working on the development of neural prostheses are looking to create ‘smart' devices that can harness the brain's plasticity – or rather, its capacity to change.

Merzenich: We're trying to understand the principles and rules and we're trying in every way to help in the translation of that – to guide the development of these devices, their designs, their operations.

Narrator: Dr. Mike Merzenich, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco , says smart neural prostheses are intended to restore function, through electrical stimulation, to treat neurological damage. One goal would be to regrow missing neurons.

Merzenich: But it has to be remembered in all such instances that you still have to teach new neurons, you still have to teach reconnected circuits what to do because they organize themselves in detail on the basis of progressive learning. All such strategies, there's always the brain plasticity side that's a necessary adjunct to almost any correction that you can make in the brain using these classes of therapeutics.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.