Neuroprosthetics - History

History

The first known cochlear implant was created in 1957. Other milestones include the first motor prosthesis for foot drop in hemiplegia in 1961, the first auditory brainstem implant in 1977 and a peripheral nerve bridge implanted into the spinal cord of an adult rat in 1981. In 1988, the lumbar anterior root implant and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) facilitated standing and walking, respectively, for a group of paraplegics.

Regarding the development of electrodes implanted in the brain, an early difficulty was reliably locating the electrodes, originally done by inserting the electrodes with needles and breaking off the needles at the desired depth. Recent systems utilize more advanced probes, such as those used in deep brain stimulation to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. The problem with either approach is that the brain floats free in the skull while the probe does not, and relatively minor impacts, such as a low speed car accident, are potentially damaging. Some researchers, such as Kensall Wise at the University of Michigan, have proposed tethering 'electrodes to be mounted on the exterior surface of the brain' to the inner surface of the skull. However, even if successful, tethering would not resolve the problem in devices meant to be inserted deep into the brain, such as in the case of deep brain stimulation (DBS).

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