Researchers in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health have demonstrated for the first time that a direct artificial connection from the brain to muscles can restore voluntary movement in monkeys whose arms have been temporarily anesthetized.
“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.
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.
Researcher Dr. Fetz says that this is still around a decade away from clinical applications, but hopefully this kind of research will eventually lead to new treatments for paralysis.