Imagine a future where a broken spine is no longer a sentence to a life of being wheelchair bound. This future is rapidly approaching thanks to the efforts of a broad network of scientists and researchers who have successfully gotten paralyzed primates up and walking. The system reads the neurological signals sent from the brain and connects them with the nerves in the spine beyond the point where the damage occurred.
In the system, which builds upon previous sensor technology called BrainGate, a pill-sized electrode array is implanted in the brain to capture movement signals generated by the motor cortex. A wireless sensor then broadcasts the signals to a computer, which decodes them, before sending them wirelessly back to an electrical stimulator implanted in the lumbar spine – below the area of spinal injury. This stimulation signals to spinal nerves, which activate leg muscles. To calibrate the system, the researchers implanted the neural interface in healthy macaques, so they could capture the animals’ brain signals that correspond to normal leg movement and locomotion.
The scientists warn that this technology is still several years away from becoming refined enough for human implementation, but they seem confident that it is coming. We thank the researchers behind this wonderous new technology and look forward to all the lives that it will change forever!