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Implant Restores Paralyzed Man's Leg Movement 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-have-the-technology dept.
cylonlover writes "In a move that gives cautious hope to the millions of people suffering some form of paralysis, a team of researchers from UCLA, Caltech and the University of Louisville has given a man rendered paralyzed from the chest down after a hit-and-run accident in 2006 the ability to stand and take his first tentative steps in four years. The team used a stimulating electrode array implanted into the man's body to provide continual direct electrical stimulation to the lower part of the spinal cord that controls movement of the hips, knees, ankles and toes, to mimic the signals the brain usually sends to initiate movement (abstract)."
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Implant Restores Paralyzed Man's Leg Movement

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  • Re:All the best (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Friday May 20, 2011 @11:08AM (#36192052) Homepage

    I heard an article about this on NPR this morning. He apparently has a fair amount of control and even feeling while the power is turned on. He talked about getting a shot in his lower back while the systems was powered up and being able to feel the pain, the pressure of the insertion, everything you'd expect a normal person to be able to feel. He joked about it being both bad and good, but you could tell he was really pleased.

    The interesting thing is that they aren't, from what I understand, trying to bypass the damaged nerves, rather they're applying a continuous current to them, which seems to boost the natural ability of the nerves to receive signals. For lack of a better description (and assuming I understand what's going on, which is assuming a lot, even the doctors don't seem too clear on the details) the applied current allows the nerve signals to "jump" the cut in his nervous system.

    Also for reasons I don't understand, they only use the system 2 hours or so a day, so for the majority of the time he's a normal paraplegic. That may explain why it's taking him so long to relearn things like walking and standing, though the article indicates that only gross movements may ever be possible so it could be that the signals just aren't strong enough still for fine motor control.

  • Re:All the best (Score:4, Informative)

    by Renraku (518261) on Friday May 20, 2011 @03:41PM (#36194796) Homepage

    Actually, that's wrong. At least in cats. As proof they kept a cat's body alive, removed its brain, and put it on a treadmill. The cat was held up, but as the legs felt pressure on them, they started to run by themselves. Rather well, too, matching speed with the treadmill. The muscles and spinal cord basically play a huge role in balance and walking..it isn't 100% brain controlled.

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