Brain more flexible and trainable than previously thought
Published on March 4, 2012 at 11:51 PM · No Comments



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Opening the door to the development of thought-controlled prosthetic devices to help people with spinal cord injuries, amputations and other impairments, neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal have demonstrated that the brain is more flexible and trainable than previously thought.

Their new study, to be published Sunday, March 4, in the advanced online publication of the journal Nature, shows that through a process called plasticity, parts of the brain can be trained to do something it normally does not do. The same brain circuits employed in the learning of motor skills, such as riding a bike or driving a car, can be used to master purely mental tasks, even arbitrary ones.

Over the past decade, tapping into brain waves to control disembodied objects has moved out of the realm of parlor tricks and parapsychology and into the emerging field of neuroprosthetics. This new study advances work by researchers who have been studying the brain circuits used in natural movement in order to mimic them for the development of prosthetic devices.

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