McKelvey School of Engineering School of Medicine

Right brain, left brain: A physician’s creative quest primes the world for a neuroprosthetics revolution

Eric Leuthardt, MD, homes in on a brain area that causes seizures in a patient with epilepsy. In the surgery, he precisely inserts a small laser probe with the assistance of an intraoperative robotic system. (Photo: Tim Parker)

Shortly before 2 p.m. on a Monday, a group of writers, doctors and marketing gurus has convened in a North Building conference room to discuss putting on a play.

One of the production’s star performers arrives. Eric C. Leuthardt, MD, sits down and guides the group through details about the play, a four-part theatrical production debuting this summer that will take audiences to the frontiers of neuroscience.

While he speaks with the fluidity of a theater veteran, Leuthardt is still wearing scrubs. Performing plays is one of the many hats that the Washington University neurosurgeon wears as he educates society about the transformative potential of the brain. By tapping into his creative side, he hopes he can prime the public for what he foresees are upcoming breakthroughs in how we view the mind.

Through his groundbreaking research in the brain’s capacity to rewire itself, called neuroplasticity, it is his work in connecting brains to computers that guides his most ambitious goal: the one day widespread use of neural interfaces for anything from rehabilitating stroke patients to enhancing our own intelligence and memory.

With ample resources, he said he could make an implant as safe as LASIK eye surgery in as little as five years.

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