Neural Implants - A State Of The Art Report
Karlsruhe: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe 2008
(Wissenschaftliche Berichte, FZKA 7387), 105 Seiten
[Volltext/pdf / 1.832 kb]
The debate on nanotechnology and the progress made in neuroscience, particularly the further development of imaging techniques which permit us to "watch people thinking", have led to greater media interest in the field of neuroprosthetics. Precisely because in neuroprosthetics technology comes so close to people, media reports are often emotionally charged and riddled with science fiction visions, but they are usually also fixed on special cases. Even for the interested observer it is difficult to gain a satisfactory understanding of the state of technology involved in neural implants. This report is a reaction to this situation of inadequate information. It provides an overview of the neural implants currently in use and the status of the development of new implant concepts.
The results of the report can be summarised as follows:
- The status of neural implant development varies greatly. Some implants, such as cardiac pacemakers and cochlear implants, have been in use for decades. Others have either been under development for years without any breakthrough having been achieved (retina implants and stance and gait prostheses), or are far from clinical application (hippocampus implant). It is thus inappropriate to speak of a single level of development of all neural implants.
- Some neural implants that have long been in use for certain therapeutic purposes, e.g., cardiac pacemakers, have now been modified and used in the brain (deep brain stimulation). This is an area of rapid development. It is notable in this regard that it is less the technical further development of the implants that dictates this acceleration but rather the combination of imaging techniques, new surgical options and increased knowledge of the human brain and its functional areas. Precisely the development of deep brain stimulation is proving to be an extremely dynamic field. One new application after another is being rapidly identified, and some of them have already been clinically tested. Here there is a danger that the systematic investigation of the side effects of this rapid development cannot keep pace.
- If one reflects upon the implants included in this study, the excitement produced by media reports on neural implants is put into perspective. The implants are mainly designed to reestablish one particular function that has been lost through an accident or illness or that was missing from birth. It is undisputed that for the patient these implants can mean great relief and significantly increase the range of possible action. However, a comparison of the result with what is possible for a healthy person exposes a considerable discrepancy, a discrepancy that is eclipsed by the nature of media reporting. There are instead reports detailing visions which aim to increase the range of human abilities. Hopes and fears about such visions becoming reality are not justified by the current status of technology.
Erstellt am: 10.04.2008 -