An international team of scientists has used a wireless "brain-spinal interface" to bypass spinal cord injuries in a pair of rhesus macaques, restoring intentional walking movement to a temporarily paralyzed leg. The researchers, who describe their work in the journal Nature, say this is the first time a neural prosthetic has been used to restore walking movement directly to the legs of nonhuman primates. The Nature article was published online on November 9, 2016 and is titled “A brain–spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates.” The study was performed by scientists and neuroengineers in a collaboration led by Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, together with Brown University, Medtronic, and Fraunhofer ICT-IMM in Germany. The work builds upon neural technologies developed at Brown and partner institutions, and was tested in collaboration with the University of Bordeaux, Motac Neuroscience and the Lausanne University Hospital. "The system we have developed uses signals recorded from the motor cortex of the brain to trigger coordinated electrical stimulation of nerves in the spine that are responsible for locomotion," said David Borton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Engineering at Brown and one of the study's co-lead authors. "With the system turned on, the animals in our study had nearly normal locomotion." The work could help in developing a similar system designed for humans who have had spinal cord injuries. "There is evidence to suggest that a brain-controlled spinal stimulation system may enhance rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury," Dr. Borton said. "This is a step toward further testing that possibility." Dr. Grégoire Courtine, a professor at EPFL who led the collaboration, has started clinical trials in Switzerland to test the spine-part of the interface.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story