Authors: Sharon Salt, Editor
According to new research presented at SfN Neuroscience (3–7 November, San Diego, CA, USA), advances in connecting neural stimulation to physical control of the body are transforming the development of prosthetics and therapeutic training for people with disabilities.
As our understanding of neural functions and interactions combines with technical advances, scientists are developing new and improved prosthetics and therapies that aim to improve quality of life for people with conditions such as paralysis, stroke and blindness.
Electrical signals that stimulate specific regions in the brain or body can bypass injuries in the spinal column or eyes and activate target regions, training the brain to process movement or vision in the most effective manner possible.
Hand–grasp neuroprosthetics for spinal cord injury patients achieve new precision
One study presented at the conference highlights advances in the precision and force of brain-controlled, computer-guided hand movements, and anticipate that they may enable people with quadriplegia and others with hand paralysis to begin integrating electrical-stimulation-based prosthetics into their daily life.
This research demonstrates significant progress in allowing a paralyzed person to progress from thinking about what needs to be done to actually reanimating his or her own hand. The researchers developed an electronic bypass system, called NeuroLife®, that uses a chip implanted into the motor cortex to record brain activity, sophisticated machine-learning algorithms to decode and translate thoughts into action commands, and a wearable electrical stimulation sleeve that drives the muscles to move.