COMPUTER-ASSISTED devices should be available by 2010 that will enable certain paralyzed patients to walk. They will work by a computer-driven array of electrodes which are implanted in the muscles of the back and legs. On command the computer will generate a motor sequence corresponding to the muscle activity which takes place in normal walking. Information will then be relayed back from the legs at speeds exceeding a million times normal nerve conduction times. This will enable the computer to make instantaneous corrections for variations in terrain. These and other "neural prostheses" for hearing, vision and other functions will depend upon the ability of neuroscientists and computer specialists to connect electronic systems to the brain and nervous system.
Computers, coupled with holograms (laser-assisted imaging devices), and CT and MRI scans will provide 3D images of the human body well before the year 2010. Instead of looking at the brain a slice at a time, as is common now, it will be possible to peer deep into the brain and even peek around more superficial areas in order to see parts that lie deep within. Areas that block the view or are otherwise irrelevant can be removed via computer instructions. Obscure and usually inaccessible areas will stand out with amazing clarity. By means of the computer-laser hookup, surgeons will be able to carry out practice operations. They will introduce innovations at will, take risks, try out novel approaches just to see "how things will turn out" -- procedures that would be unthinkable in a live patient.
In the areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery, new computer imaging devices will be particularly useful. At the moment it is difficult for even the most skilled surgeon to know in advance exactly how his or her patients will look after an extensive reconstructive operation. But with the new video equipment, it should be possible to show a patient ahead of time how he will look after the correction of his cleft palate, protruding jaw or other facial deformity.