A wireless brain implant, BrainGate, has been created by a research team that has been used by them to make two paralyzed rhesus macaques capable of walking again successfully. This wireless system works via bypassing spinal cord injuries and instead of sending the signal all the way down the spinal cord, it sends directly to the lumbar region. This is the first time a neural prosthetic restored movement in a paralyzed rhesus macaques.
The researchers consisted of collaborators from Switzerland and Germany and added to a sensor technology called BrainGate. Implanted into the brain, the tiny electrode collects movement signals by the brain’s motor cortex.
Two paralyzed rhesus macaques having paralysis from spinal cord lesions in their upper and middle back were used to test the implants. The animals moved their legs and were capable of walking on a treadmill just about normally after the receiver activated. A vital role was played by the wireless technology because wired systems can get in the way of the movement.
One of the lead researchers for the project was David Borton from Brown University. He stated:
“Doing this wirelessly enables us to map the neural activity in normal contexts and during natural behavior. If we truly aim for neuroprosthetics that can someday be deployed to help human patients during activities of daily life, such untethered recording technologies will be critical.”
The ability to walk for humans can be brought back by this system in due course. Though, numerous areas of improvement have been recorded by the team. As per them, a separate computer is required for the interface.
In addition to all this, the information only travels one way, that is, from the brain to the legs. In normal function, reciprocating information is sent back to the brain from the legs for pace, balance and coordination with the rest of the body.
“In a full translational study, we would want to do more quantification about how balanced the animal is during walking and measure the forces they’re able to apply.”
Nevertheless, the team is exceptionally optimistic despite its caution.
While talking to Brown University news, Borton said:
“There’s an adage in neuroscience that circuits that fire together wire together. The idea here is that by engaging the brain and the spinal cord together, we may be able to enhance the growth of circuits during rehabilitation. That’s one of the major goals of this work and a goal of this field in general.”