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News From The Future-24

Researchers create brain-computer interface that bypasses spinal cord injury paralysis @ ExtremeTech:

Scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, have successfully bypassed the spinal cord and restored fine motor control to paralyzed limbs using a brain-computer interface.

The researchers have created a neuroprosthesis that combines a brain-computer interface (BCI) that’s wired directly into 100 neurons in the motor cortex of the subject, and a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device that’s wired into the muscles of the subject’s arm. When the subject tries to move his arm or hand, that cluster of around 100 neurons activates, creating a stream of data which can then be read and analyzed by the BCI to predict what muscles the subject is trying to move, and with what level of force. This interpreted data is passed to the FES, which then triggers the right muscles to perform the desired movement.

Phillip Torrone

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.

7 Responses to Brain-Computer Bypasses Spinal Cord Injuries

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  1. rocketguy1701 on said:

    Wonder if they will be able to also close the loop for the return information (sensory data from the muscles back to the brain). As totally awesome as this is, they’ll eventually need to address that in order to really restore function.

    That said, definitely having a living in the future moment here…

    • There already is a basic form of closed loop feedback through the eyes, and with repeated practice, that may be sufficient. However, restoring full functionality would be even better.

      • rocketguy1701 on said:

        Right, it came to mind because of recent research on kinesthetics and force feedback which they’re apparently just getting a grip on, no pun intended. There’s actually an interesting improvement possible there, as felt force is under-reported by the musculature (which partially explains upward cycles of violence between two kids in the back seat, hitting with “equal force” isn’t possible). If one were able to adjust the gain for maximum precision I wonder if you could eventually exceed normal dexterity?

  2. Jasper on said:

    Now find a way to further develop this without using a monkey and it will be great!

    • Jack on said:

      What I was thinking. I’d like to see the end of animal testing as well. I get the end purpose, but it’s damned barbaric of us to use animals like this.

      • Unfortunate as it is there is no true alternative to animal testing analogues in this case. A computer simulation will never truly give you the information you need because they don’t feel can’t indicate true levels of pain and discomfort, possible organic rejections, etc.

        • how about using convicted death row murderers or child rapists?
          They can give verbal feedback too – which would be just fabulous wouldn’t it?
          In return they could have a 50″ LCD in their cell….

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