Wireless Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys Regain Control Of Legs

Posted: Nov 10 2016, 3:25am CST | by , Updated: Nov 10 2016, 4:09am CST , in Latest Science News


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Wireless Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys to Walk Once Again
The brain-spine interface uses a brain implant like this one to detect spiking activity in the brain's motor cortex. Seen here, a microelectrode array and a silicon model of a primate's brain, as well as a pulse generator used to stimulate electrodes implanted on the spinal cord. Credit: Alain Herzog / EPFL
  • Cerebral Implants allow Primates afflicted with Paralysis to Walk once Again

Apparently, cerebral implants have allowed primates afflicted with debilitating paralysis to walk once again. This is nothing short of a scientific miracle and the technology may someday work in humans too.

A group of researchers has managed to employ a wireless implant that allows rhesus macaques to walk despite suffering from paralysis.

The work of these dedicated scientists was published in the journal Nature recently.

This is the first time a neural implant has made locomotion possible in monkeys that had been immobile due to disability from the waist down.

This effort is based upon neural technologies that had been developing side by side and keeping pace with the changing times. Signals recorded from the motor cortex of the brain are used to stimulate coordinated action potential in the nerves of the spinal column.

This then gives the monkeys a chance to walk despite being paralyzed. When the procedure was applied in the lab, the monkeys regained normal locomotion like they had not been paralyzed at all. It just goes to show you that science has a lot of surprises up its sleeves.

Later on in the future, this system could be modified so that it becomes applicable to human beings too. Some preliminary testing will be needed before the nascent technology becomes viable in human beings.

A few challenges do lie ahead since it is a large leap from primates to people. The complex brains of homo sapiens demand that greater care and precision be used in building the brain implant.

Walking is essentially a coordinated effort made possible thanks to the brain and the spinal column working in harmony. In the lower lumbar region, the signals of the nerves lead to a promotion of activity in the legs.

Injury to the upper spine may lead to disruption of nerve signals and so walking may become an impossibility. It is this exact neurological glitch that the brain implant rectifies.

The re-establishment of communication between the brain and the spinal cord is the goal of this revolutionary technology. The electrode that is implanted in the brain is about the size of a pill.

So far the experiment has been a success in monkeys. The fact that it is wireless in its operations makes it even more of a wonderful surprise for the layperson who is unaware of the bonanza that modern science has access to.

The rest of the work is all about finetuning this technology so that the primates can walk in a more balanced manner. This will take time and effort.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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