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Scientists restore movement to paralyzed limbs through artificial brain-muscle connections
Date:10/16/2008

ext, the researchers converted the activity in the monkey's brain to electrical stimulation delivered to the paralyzed wrist muscles. The monkeys continued to play the target practice gameonly now cursor movements were driven by actual wrist movementsdemonstrating that they had regained the ability to control the otherwise paralyzed wrist.

The group's approach is one of several lines of current neuroprosthetic research. Some investigators are using brain-computer interfaces to record signals from multiple neurons and convert those signals to control a robotic limb. Other researchers have delivered artificial stimulation directly to paralyzed arm muscles in order to drive arm movementa technique called functional electrical stimulation (FES). The Fetz study is the first to combine a brain-computer interface with real-time control of FES.

"A robotic arm would be better for someone whose physical arm has been lost or if the muscles have atrophied, but if you have an arm whose muscles can be stimulated, a person can learn to reactivate them with this technology," says Dr. Fetz.

Until now, brain-computer interfaces were designed to decode the activity of neurons known to be associated with movement of specific body parts. Here, the researchers discovered that any motor cortex cell, regardless of whether it had been previously associated with wrist movement, was capable of stimulating muscle activity. This finding greatly expands the potential number of neurons that could control signals for brain-computer interfaces and also illustrates the flexibility of the motor cortex.

"The cells don't have to have a preordained role in the movement. We can create a direct link between the cell and the motor output that the user can learn to control and optimize over time," says Dr. Fetz.

Dr. Fetz and his colleagues found that the monkeys' control over neuronal activityand the resulting control over stimulation of their wrist muscl
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Contact: Lisa Gough
goughll@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Source:Eurekalert

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