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Paralysed monkey able to walk again thanks to brain implant

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | News

A team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have made an amazing breakthrough;  managing to restore partial movement to two monkeys with spinal injuries. The monkeys were previously unable to move or use a leg due to nerve damage that stops the brain's ability to send electronic signals through their bodies.


Using a wireless chip, scientists were able to send neuron signals to the affected areas and restore limited mobility to the legs: With the aid of a treadmill the monkeys were able to walk again, showing how effective the wireless technology could be on humans.


The chip gathers signals from the motor cortex part of the brain, this is the area that controls voluntary movement of the body. It then sends them to a computer with specially designed software that decodes the movement signals, before then sending them to a receiver planted in the lumbar spine below the injury.


The technology is impressive but it won’t be trialled on humans in the immediate future. This is largely down to the way in which humans walk; due to our bipedal nature, the movement of our limbs is far more complex than primates. Bipedal walking has to take a lot more variants into consideration, meaning it will require more complex software and implants.


There have already been several notable cases of similar implants working on humans. An American woman paralyzed from the neck, was able to control a robotic arm using wireless signals. She was able to grab and move several objects as she normally would, bypassing her paralysis.


Restoring the function to two individual limbs will be a far greater challenge, but the innovations within the field definitely point to a brighter future for those who suffer from paralysis.

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