For a number of centuries, scientists, engineers, psychologists or philosophers have tried to understand how the brain works. With nearly 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion synapses in the human brain, the question remains as one of the greatest challenges of all times.
Frontiers in Neuroscience has created a research topic that includes engineering ways of reading and sending information to the brain, the study of the physiological information exchange that occurs within the brain, and how the brain understands artificially encoded neural information.
Hearing, sight, touch, or learning, all happens in the brain. The different organs in charge of sensing the environment send complex neural messages to the brain to inform about the surrounding world. Likewise, the brain sends different instructions to the organs to elicit a response such as a muscle contraction. Furthermore, the brain is also responsible for the different mental actions such as cognition or the generation of emotions. However, disease or trauma can alter the said neural communications causing blindness, deafness, paralysis, or mental illness among others.
Luckily, a family of therapies based on the delivery of electric charge exists or are being investigated to treat some of these health conditions. An example of a successful treatment to restore audition is the cochlear implant. Visual and motor prostheses provide hope to the blind and the paralyzed respectively. All of these medical devices share one common challenge: the replication of neural codes. This ambitious goal requires (1) the development of better ways to “listen” to the neurons by means of improved electrode-tissue interfaces and signal processing algorithms, (2) devising stimulation strategies able to mimic physiological responses, and (3) enhancing or restoring brain computational capabilities.
This Research Topic includes a total of 11 contributions from more than 40 world leading experts and upcoming researchers, and provides a state-of-the-art view on some of the key questions related to our ability to maintaining a conversation with the brain to treat disease. Ranging from highly sophisticated computational models to novel brain tissue alternatives, the works presented here suggest new strategies to overcome some of the difficulties engineers and scientists are facing.
Read the rest of the editorial article here: Front. Neurosci., 14 August 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00794
See the research topic here: https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/9690/a-conversation-with-the-brain-can-we-speak-its-language