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Neurosurg Focus. 2009 Jul;27(1):E5. doi: 10.3171/2009.4.FOCUS0987.

Human cortical prostheses: lost in translation?

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto, California 94301, USA.


Direct brain control of a prosthetic system is the subject of much popular and scientific news. Neural technology and science have advanced to the point that proof-of-concept systems exist for cortically-controlled prostheses in rats, monkeys, and even humans. However, realizing the dream of making such technology available to everyone is still far off. Fortunately today there is great public and scientific interest in making this happen, but it will only occur when the functional benefits of such systems outweigh the risks. In this article, the authors briefly summarize the state of the art and then highlight many issues that will directly limit clinical translation, including system durability, system performance, and patient risk. Despite the challenges, scientists and clinicians are in the desirable position of having both public and fiscal support to begin addressing these issues directly. The ultimate challenge now is to determine definitively whether these prosthetic systems will become clinical reality or forever unrealized.

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