Direct Physical and Biological Modification Neurotechnology for Medical Applications
While technologies in the previous categories often use electrical signals, more recent technologies have been using methods to directly interact with physical and biological modifications. While many experiments have been tried on animal models, applications on humans are still in an early development stage. An example of this category is optogenetics. This is a technique that foresees the genetic modification of neurons that become light-sensitive. Then, it is possible to modulate neuronal activity providing not an electrical, but an optical stimulation. As a recent example, this technique has been tested in a blind patient to partially restore his visual function. The injection with an adeno-associated viral vector made the ganglion neurons in the patient’s retina sensitive to light stimulation. Special goggles worn by the patient measure the local changes in light intensity and send corresponding light pulses onto the retina in real time to activate the genetically modified neurons (Sahel, Boulanger-Scemama, Pagot, et al, 2021).