Brain and Spine Implants Let a Paralyzed Monkey Walk Again

Brain and Spine Implants Let a Paralyzed Monkey Walk Again
November 11 12:34 2016 Print This Article

(Specturm) – Enabling someone with paralyzed legs to rise to their feet and walk again has long been considered impossible, the kind of bogus miracle promised by faith healers. But who needs faith healers when you have clever scientists and electricity? In the new field of bioelectronic medicine, doctors may soon make the miraculous a reality. A new experiment using paralyzed monkeys has shown the way toward that goal.  By Eliza Strickland

Researchers conducted a proof-of-concept study using two monkeys with partial spinal cord injuries, which prevented brain commands from reaching one of their back legs. The researchers used electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ brains to record electrical signals from the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement. They used a computer to decode those signals and translate them into commands sent to other sets of electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ lumbar spines; those electrodes stimulated the spinal cord. This brain-spine interface (BSI) bypassed the injured part of the spinal cord, allowing the monkeys’ natural movement commands to reach their injured legs.

Study coauthor David Borton, a neuroengineer at Brown University, says he was surprised by how effortlessly the animals took to the technology. “Their behavior did not make us think that they were bothered by it at all,” he tells IEEE Spectrum. “They didn’t turn around and look at their legs—they just walked.”

MONKEY_BRAIN_IMPLANT_GIF

Much research remains to be done before humans can benefit from this technology, says study coauthor Gregoire Courtine, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne where he focuses on spinal cord repair. “We’re not going to see people walking in the street with brain-spine interfaces tomorrow,” he says. But Courtine and his colleagues are working toward that goal, and are striving to improve the hardware to make it suitable for paraplegic humans.

See the full article and images HERE

 

[A note on animal testing: The monkeys recovered from their spinal cord injuries in due time.]