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A boon to the paralyzed -Brain Gate Neural Interface System

It will now be possible for a patient with spinal cord injury to produce brain signals that relay the intention of moving the paralyzed limbs// , as signals to an implanted sensor, which is then output as electronic impulses. These impulses enable the user to operate mechanical devices with the help of a computer cursor.

A report appearing in the July 13 issue of Nature includes the first published findings from an ongoing clinical trial of the Brain Gate Neural Interface System, a brain-computer interface device in the early stages of clinical testing at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and other institutions across the country.

"The broad question we are addressing is whether it's possible for someone with paralysis to use the activity of the motor cortex [the part of the brain responsible for motion] to control an external device," says Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD, a neurologist at MGH, Spaulding and Brigham and Women's Hospital and lead author of the Nature paper. "There has been a question of how the function of the cortex might change after it was disconnected from the rest of the body by damage to the spinal cord. We're finding that, even years after spinal cord injury, the same signals that originally controlled a limb are available and can be utilized."

Manufactured by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., of Foxborough, Mass., the BrainGate System consists of an internal sensor to detect brain cell activity and external processors that convert brain impulses into computerized signals. Two clinical trials are currently underway to evaluate the system's safety and feasibility for detecting and translating brain activity from patients with paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury, brain stem stroke or muscular dystrophy and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). John Donoghue, PhD, a neuroscience professor and director of the Brain Science P
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