Successful control of muscle activation
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The research on neuroprosthetic devices could show that it is possible to electronically bypass the lesion in the spinal cord and restore lost functions.
Intracortically recorded signals can be decoded to extract the information related to the movement and translated in machine learning algorithms. This is the technical background when paralysed humans are able to control the movements of a robotic arm only by intending and imaging the movements.
Now Chad E Bouton describes in a paper, published in Nature, that they successfully could link intracortically recorded signals in real time to the arm and hand muscles, thus activating arm and hand functions to complete functional tasks relevant to daily living. The research team used a chronically implanted intracortical electrode in a tetraplegic patient to record the neural activity, decoded the signals for finger movement and applied the necessary signals to the muscles of the forearm and hand via a 130 electrodes. Thus, the hand movement imaged by the patient was translated in functional hand muscle movements.
This demonstration of a successful control of muscle activation by an electronic neural bypass makes hope for the future, although a lot of work will be necessary before this technology will be available for other patients.