Arirang News is reporting that researchers have used a brain implant to help a deaf girl hear again. The girl had damage to the nerve that transmitts sound signals from the ear to a specific part of the brain.

The Yonsei University College of Medicine and Italian experts have transplanted a computer chip and an artificial neural network into the girl’s brain. The electronic nerve transforms sound into digital signals, which are transmitted to the brain stem and processed by the aural centrum. Following the transplant doctors say they’ve begun detecting in the child, the signature brainwaves of sound perception.

It appears that they used an artificial neural network (ANN) to carry out this task. An “ANN” is basically a computer representation of a network of neurons.

An artificial neural network (ANN), often just called a “neural network” (NN), is a mathematical model or computational model based on biological neura networks. It consists of an interconnected group of artificial neurons and processes information using a connectionist approach to computation. In most cases an ANN is an adaptive system that changes its structure based on external or internal information that flows through the network during the learning phase.

This seems to be a different type of implant when compared to the more common cochlear implants. With cochlear implants, surgeons implant an electronic device that stimulates the auditory nerves inside the cochlea part of the ear by using electrical impulses. This new implant goes a step further and it actually stimulates the brain regions that are connected to auditory processing. So the stimulation occurs down the line in the auditory processing circuit. This basically sounds like it bypasses the ear altogether.

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