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Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2007;97(Pt 2):3-13.

An introduction to neural networks surgery, a field of neuromodulation which is based on advances in neural networks science and digitised brain imaging.

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P. S. Kokkalis Hellenic Center for Neurosurgical Research, Athens, Greece.


Operative Neuromodulation is the field of altering electrically or chemically the signal transmission in the nervous system by implanted devices in order to excite, inhibit or tune the activities of neurons or neural networks and produce therapeutic effects. The present article reviews relevant literature on procedures or devices applied either in contact with the cerebral cortex or cranial nerves or in deep sites inside the brain in order to treat various refractory neurological conditions such as: a) chronic pain (facial, somatic, deafferentation, phantom limb), b) movement disorders (Parkinson's disease, dystonia, Tourette syndrome), c) epilepsy, d) psychiatric disease, e) hearing deficits, and f) visual loss. These data indicate that in operative neuromodulation, a new field emerges that is based on neural networks research and on advances in digitised stereometric brain imaging which allow precise localisation of cerebral neural networks and their relay stations; this field can be described as Neural networks surgery because it aims to act extrinsically or intrinsically on neural networks and to alter therapeutically the neural signal transmission with the use of implantable electrical or electronic devices. The authors also review neurotechnology literature relevant to neuroengineering, nanotechnologies, brain computer interfaces, hybrid cultured probes, neuromimetics, neuroinformatics, neurocomputation, and computational neuromodulation; the latter field is dedicated to the study of the biophysical and mathematical characteristics of electrochemical neuromodulation. The article also brings forward particularly interesting lines of research such as the carbon nanofibers electrode arrays for simultaneous electrochemical recording and stimulation, closed-loop systems for responsive neuromodulation, and the intracortical electrodes for restoring hearing or vision. The present review of cerebral neuromodulatory procedures highlights the transition from the conventional neurosurgery of resective or ablative techniques to a highly selective "surgery of networks". The dynamics of the convergence of the above biomedical and technological fields with biological restorative approaches have important implications for patients with severe neurological disorders.

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