When light enters the eyes and hits the photoreceptor cells on the retina, the information it carries is converted by these cells into electrical impulses that are then carried to the brain. But each image has a pattern, and as such, the electrical impulses from the retina are in the form of patterns or codes.
Having deciphered the neural codes of the retinal cells, researchers have been able to make a tiny chip that produces and sends to the brain the same electrical pattern that the retina would, while bypassing damaged retinal cells, Nirenberg said. Their approach has been successful in mice, and the researchers are testing the technique on primates before it's used in people.
Closing in on the brain In the future, there could be a day when the brain could control an entirely robotic body, or perceive the world through artificial senses. It's less likely, however, that scientists could ever faithfully reconstruct the brain in a computer, said panelist Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist and science writer at NYU. But if they could, it might not be "you" anymore, Marcus said.