Brain implants help paralyzed monkeys walk again

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Paraplegics may soon regain use of their legs, now that scientists have created an implant that proves effective in primates.

In a spinal cord injury, brain signals are unable to reach the neurons that activate movement, often resulting in lower limb paralysis. But researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne may have found a way to bypass this, having successfully restored movement in two paralyzed monkeys.

According to the study, published in Nature, the team developed a neuroprosthetic interface that uses two wireless implants. The first is a sensor surgically implanted in the brain’s motor cortex — the area that controls movement. The second is a nerve stimulator that is placed near the spinal injury.

The sensor picks up brain signals commanding leg movement and transmits them to a computer. The computer decodes the signals and sends them to the second implant in the spine. From there, pulses of electricity are released to stimulate certain nerves. This in turn triggers muscles in the leg, enabling it to move and flex.

CNN reports that the monkeys did not need any training and were able to walk immediately after activation of the interface.

The researchers plan to apply the technology to improve human lives, but say this may take several more years to achieve.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia
2. Brain-spine interface uses two wireless implants
3. Brain signals decoded by a computer, sent to nerve stimulator in spine
4. Nerve stimulator sends electric pulses

VOICEOVER (in English):
“In a spinal cord injury, brain signals are unable to reach the neurons that activate movement, often resulting in paraplegia. But Swiss researchers have found a way to bypass this, successfully restoring movement in paralyzed monkeys.”

“The team developed an interface that uses two wireless implants, a sensor in the brain and a nerve stimulator near the spinal injury.”

“The sensor picks up brain signals commanding leg movement and transmits them to a computer. The computer decodes the signals and sends them to the second implant in the spine.”

“From there, pulses of electricity are released to stimulate certain nerves. This in turn triggers muscles in the leg, enabling it to move and flex.”

SOURCES:
Nature, CNN
http://www.nature.com/articles/nature20118.epdf
http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/09/health/paralyzed-monkeys-walking-brain-implant/