Brain Controls Paralyzed Muscles
By ED YONG - THESCIENTIST
Added: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 12:58:36 UTC
A new system decodes brain signals from the motor cortex of monkeys and translates them into basic arm movements, despite temporary paralysis.
Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a device that allows monkeys to reach out and grab a ball, even though they cannot feel some of their arm muscles. A panel of electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ brains decodes commands from the motor cortex (the region that controls movements), while electrodes in their arms directly stimulate the appropriate muscles.
This electronic middle-man, known as functional electrical stimulation (FES), bypasses the spinal cord, and allows the monkeys to perform simple tasks despite their paralyzed muscles, whose connections to the brain have been temporarily disabled. Its inventors, who published their findings today (April 18) in Nature, hope that a similar system could help people with spinal cord injuries to regain control of their hands, giving them more independence in their daily lives.
“[It’s the] first step toward showing how FES and brain-decoding can be linked,” said neurobiologist Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the research.
FES is not a new idea. Existing systems can already restore movements to paralyzed limbs by directly stimulating muscles. But all of these are controlled by moving parts of the limb that are still active. A shrug of the shoulder, for example, might trigger a specific pre-programmed movement in a paralyzed hand. “The critical difference is that we’re taking the control signals from the brain,” said neurophysiologist Lee Miller of Northwestern University, who led the new study.
Peter Singer - The Scotsman Comments
Analysis: Why it’s irrational to risk women’s lives for the sake of the unborn
Ruth Williams - TheScientist Comments
Double helix showing coplanar alignment of standard base pairs.
CLAUDIA DREIFUS - New York Times 15 Comments
Carson C. Chow deploys mathematics to solve the everyday problems of real life. As an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, he tries to figure out why 1 in 3 Americans are obese.
- - MedicalXpress 27 Comments
Cocaine decreases activity of a protein necessary for normal functioning of the brain's reward system
Christopher Badcock, Ph.D -... 3 Comments
Neurons Mirror the Diametric Mind
Schizophrenics amplify neuronal mirroring, autistics reduce it
- - MedicalXpress 11 Comments
How thinking about death can lead to a good life
Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death – say walking by a cemetery – could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.
MORE BY ED YONG
Ed Yong - Nature News Comments
Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison. They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on.
Ed Yong - Discover Magazine Blogs Comments
Did bacteria also help the single-celled ancestors of animals to band together? Did they contribute to the evolutionary foundation of every ant and elephant, every fish and finch?
Ed Yong - nature Comments
A jellyfish made of silicone and rat heart cells 'swims' in water when subjected to an electric field. HARVARD UNIV./CALTECH
Ed Yong - Discover Magazine 17 Comments
Scientists have used mammoth remains to discover much about how the mammoth lived and died, and even to sequence most of its genome. But can they also bring the animal back from the dead?
Ed Yong - TheScientist 12 Comments
Live Slow, Die Old
Ancient bacteria living in deep-sea sediments are alive—but with metabolisms so slow that it’s hard to tell.
Ed Yong - Discover Magazine Blogs 47 Comments
Six polymers called XNAs that can store genetic information and evolve through natural selection. None of them are found in nature.