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Neural Implant To Give Control of Paralyzed Arms 42

An anonymous reader writes "A neural implant that connects to muscle-stimulating electrodes has given monkeys the ability to grasp a ball and drop it into a hole even though the monkey's arm has been anesthetized. The approach is another step towards 'rewiring' the brains and limbs of paralyzed patients. The research, presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago this week, uses a technique called functional electrical stimulation (FES), in which implanted electrodes deliver electrical current to trigger muscle contractions, providing a way to reconnect this loop."
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Neural Implant To Give Control of Paralyzed Arms

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  • Good to see... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cosm ( 1072588 )
    With the large number of individuals in the world with amputated limbs, this is nice to see. If only more time and research went into things like this instead of bureaucratic endeavors. Can we change our government to "Scientific Method for the People, By the People"?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by acedotcom ( 998378 )
      ummmm..i dont think that this tech will help much with amputated limbs. but yeah, thats a nice soapbox you got there.
  • by Penguinshit ( 591885 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:20PM (#29852813) Homepage Journal
    ...not useful for PALS (Person(s) with ALS) where there is no longer a neuromuscular junction (NMJ).

    Not a complaint; just an observation before someone gets excited for Professor Hawking.
    • No need to worry about him: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39133 [theonion.com]
    • by cbnewman ( 106449 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @10:25PM (#29853785)

      Not quite true.

      The disorder in ALS is of the corticospinal tract, not the NMJ, but both points are irrelevant in this case. The researchers are decoding cortical signals and translating them drive a mechanical prosthesis. Theoretically, anyone with an intact motor cortex (spinal cord injured patient, as you point out, but also for ALS) should be able to manipulate one of these things.

      Pretty cool stuff, but we're years away from anything clinically useful coming out of this because compared to other medical conditions, the research dollars just aren't there (the number of people with diabetes dwarfs all the SCI and amputees easily). Also, we need to figure out a way to use these non-invasively (i.e. outside the head) to avoid the problems with infection and the ethics of justifying an experimental brain surgery on a human...

      • Actually although ALS kills neurons in the spinal cord, these cells extend from there to the muscles. And as the nerves begin to fail, they first withdraw from the muscles. They die from the muscle end back to the central location in the spinal cord. Once the nerves die, muscles atrophy in ALS and eventually shrink away to almost nothing. However I believe that electrical stimulation still works to make the muscles contract. E-stim can maintain muscles in ALS, but normally there is no point since there will

        • by durrr ( 1316311 )
          Yes, electrical stimulation will work; all exciteable tissue is dependent on voltage gated ion channels.
          However, you'll not be able to let the signal ride a nerve to the musce if the NMJ is nonexistant, meaning you have to insert electrodes to the individual muscle fibers to get the adequate fine motor control.
          • Not quite true. Without the nerve to release acetylcholine, the gates on the muscle fiber won't open. No NMJ no acetylcholine no workee.
      • Actually there is a growing body of evidence showing NMJ breakdown prior to axonal defect (which in turn leads to cell body impact). A few years ago a study at U.Wisc-Mad showed complete cell body rescue with intervention but without axonal projection and NMJ link.

        Regardless of causation, without NMJs there is no acetylcholine release to stimulate the muscle fiber. You can shock a steak all day long without it jumping.

        And I am pretty sure the article was talking about reanimating limbs with the external
  • by abbynormal brain ( 1637419 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:25PM (#29852843)

    Now I won't be able to blame Carpal Tunnel anymore. Thanks Science ...thanks a lot!

  • Rawhide: Dr. Banzai is using a laser to vaporize a pineal tumor without damaging the parthogenital plate. A subcutaneous microphone will allow the patient to transmit verbal instructions to his own brain. Observer: Like, "raise my left arm"? Rawhide: Or "throw the harpoon." People are gonna come from all over. This boy's an Eskimo.
  • No thanks (Score:2, Funny)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 )
    I am against neural implants. They just don't feel as good as natural nerves.
  • A Step Backward (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @08:01PM (#29853045) Journal

    Whether ignoring it or ignorant of it, the present research is not "another step towards 'rewiring' the brains and limbs of paralyzed patients", it's a step back from that very use.

    Christopher Reeve credited FES with helping to regain what function and sensation he did.

    Thew earliest use I know of was the case presented on 60 Minutes where a paralyzed woman had EMG signals produced by a bicycle-like device that would have been called FES had it had a name that long ago. These were recorded and later played back amplified into her muscles to artificially produce walking. She told Dan Rather than she would walk again within a year, and would walk down the aisle to get married. He reported on CBS Evening News only a month later that she had done exactly that. This was probably around 30 years ago because the stimulation/recording/playback was controlled by a shiny new Apple II computer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @08:32PM (#29853231)

    ... for a science fair project in seventh grade. My plan was to amputate a frog's legs, then replace them with electromechanical legs that had electrodes hooked up to its nerves.

    I am glad I never carried about my dastardly plan. When I think of it now my mind reels with the thought of the suffering that poor creature would have endured.

    But I did learn a great deal about frog anatomy as well as the histories of biology and medicine. My mother encouraged this project as her father was a surgeon.

  • easier way (Score:2, Funny)

    by Korbeau ( 913903 )

    has given monkeys the ability ...

    If you have a paralyzed limb and are on a budget, train the monkeys to fetch things for you instead. Problem solved, and you even got bonus company!

  • Just in time for http://i.imgur.com/cKc4n.gif [imgur.com]

    That guys never going to get his double-leg amputee now.

  • Kudos to the monkey. If I found myself in a tiny box and without feeling in my arm, the last thing on my mind would be earning rewards.

    Achievement points, maybe.
  • Seriously, that's the first thing this made me think of, when combined with the 'sensing' robot designs.

    It looks like we'll have Star Wars-universe limbs well before we have the energy weapons and light-speed travel.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.