Rapid advances in mapping the brain are delivering more hope to people with brain injury, neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo said. “By mapping the brain, we now know which parts of the brain to target to improve neurological function and developing interventions that accelerate the brain rehabilitation process.”
Dr Teo was speaking to F2L following his keynote address at a recent Brain Injury Conference in Sydney.
He said brain mapping is also changing previously held views on the emotional impact from brain injury. “It was thought to be due to an emotional response as a result of having your life changed. But now we realise the networks that are instrumental in emotion and interaction with others were due to damage to those parts of the brain that control emotions.”
Also of interest are new regions of the brain being identified, and one of these is called 55B. “It is an area about 3mm in diameter but if you damage it, you lose the ability to speak.” Another is Connectomics which he described as the evolving understanding of the brain structural connections and data processing is playing a big role in this.
“Years ago, we had all this data but did not know how to interpret brain patterns but machine learning, vast computers and building algorithms has helped us to understand these networks, we just need to modify them.
“I believe the next step will be brain machine interface technology, that connects the brain to an external device such as a robot. For example, we can put an electrode over the speech area and a machine can speak for you.
“The brain is the last frontier. If we put as much funding into exploring the brain as we put into exploring space, we would be a whole lot better off as a species,” he said.