Time for some good news: A cure for paralysis might well be on the way.
A special chip that beams instructions out of the brain has just allowed paralysed monkeys to move their legs for the very first time.
Rhesus monkeys were paralysed in one leg due to damage spinal cords. But now a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has managed to build a ‘work-around’ to the problem my transmitting instructions directly out of the brain and down to the nerves that control the leg.
The team said that the groundbreaking technology could be ready for human use within just a few years.
In the study, which took more than 7 years to complete, a computer chip was embedded into the part of the monkeys’ brain that controls movement.
It then monitored the spikes of electrical activity that are the brains instruction for moving the legs, and bypassed these to a nearby computer.
The signals were then deciphered and transmitted to an implant in the monkey’s spine that directly stimulated the nerves that controlled leg movement.
And every single part of the process occurs in real time: as quick as if the monkey was moving the leg themselves.
The results, published in the journal Nature, showed that the monkeys could control their paralysed legs within six days and could even walk in a straight line on a treadmill.
The research represents a huge leap forward in paralysis treatment. Jocelyne Bloch, a neurosurgeon from the Lausanne University Hospital, said: “The link between decoding of the brain and the stimulation of the spinal cord is completely new.
‘For the first time, I can image a completely paralysed patient being able to move their legs through this brain-spine interface.”
The system is built from technology that has already been approved for human use, which means that the entire procedure could be ready to be tested on humans in as little as five years.
First a reality TV star for president, and now wifi-hacked brains? We are living in the future, people…