Scientists have shown it is possible to harness brain signals and redirect them to make paralysed limbs move.
The technology bypasses injuries that stop nerve signals travelling from the brain to the muscles, offering hope for people with spinal damage. So far the US team from the University of Washington have only tested their "brain-machine interfaces" in monkeys. The hope is to develop implantable circuits for humans without the need for robotic limbs, Nature reports.
Spinal cord injuries impair the nerve pathways between the brain and the limbs but spare both the limb muscles and the part of the brain that controls movement - the motor cortex. Recent studies have shown that quadriplegic patients - people who have paralysis in all four limbs - can consciously control the activity of nerve cells or neurons in the motor cortex that command hand movements, even after several years of paralysis.
Using a gadget called a brain-machine interface, Dr Chet Moritz and colleagues re-routed motor cortex control signals from the brains of temporarily paralysed monkeys directly to their arm muscles.
The gadget, which is the size of a mobile phone, interprets the brain signals and converts them into electrical impulses that can then stimulate muscle to contract. By wiring up artificial pathways for the signals to pass down, muscles that lacked natural stimulation after paralysis with a local anaesthetic regained a flow of electrical signals from the brain.
Source - BBC