Unlocking the Paralysis Riddle

October 25, 2001 | Source: Wired News

Researchers studying spinal cord injuries have observed certain patterns of the human brain that may ultimately enable paraplegics and quadriplegics to regain some motor activity in their paralyzed limbs — or use their brains to control robotic limbs.

Researchers took MRI snapshots of the brains of quadriplegics as they were asked to move their hands, elbows, feet, knees and lips. The images revealed neural activity in all the places one would expect for a non-paralyzed person. Despite years of muscular inactivity, these quadriplegics’ brains evidently continued to function as if the neural signals were actually making it out to the rest of the body.

This means a neuroprosthetic device is possible, since there is a defined area of the brain where it can be connected and then used to drive a robot arm, for example.

University of Utah researchers have built a prototype neuroprosthetic device based on this concept, containing 100 micro-electrodes.