Might researchers one day design prosthetic limbs that respond to the brain’s signals? Will brain scans someday allow researchers to read a person’s thoughts? Recent advances in neuroscience are spurring the development of technology to address long-standing challenges. And the development of new technologies — such as ways to trace connections between our 100 billion nerve cells, decode activity patterns in neural circuits, and turn cells on and off with light — are guiding scientists to new understanding of the brain and nervous system.
New technologies also aim to improve doctors’ abilities to diagnose neurological or psychiatric illness earlier and expand treatment options for people with brain disease or injury. For instance, therapies aimed at identifying and replacing defective genes or nerve cells are currently being tested. With each discovery, scientists uncover new details about brain function and how it differs in health and disease.