Researchers have not been able to fully crack the brain's "neural code despite many remarkable discoveries in the field of neuroscience during the past several decades. The neural code details how the brain's roughly 100 billion neurons turn raw sensory inputs into information we can use to see, hear and feel things in our environment.
In a perspective article published in the journal Nature Neuroscience
on Feb. 25, 2013, biomedical engineering professor Garrett Stanley detailed research progress toward "reading and writing the neural code." This encompasses the ability to observe the spiking activity of neurons in response to outside stimuli and make clear predictions about what is being seen, heard, or felt, and the ability to artificially introduce activity within the brain that enables someone to see, hear, or feel something that is not experienced naturally through sensory organs.
Stanley also described challenges that remain to read and write the neural code and asserted that the specific timing of electrical pulses is crucial to interpreting the code. He wrote the article with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Stanley has been developing approaches to better understand and control the neural code since 1997 and has published about 40 journal articles in this area.
"Neuroscientists have made great progress toward reading the neural code since the 1990s, but the recent development of improved tools for measuring and activating neuronal circuits has finally put us in a position to start writing the neural code and controlling neuronal circuits in a physiological and meaningful way," said Stanley, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.