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Wiring The Brain to Aid People With Paralysis

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Full-body prosthetic

Researchers hope to begin testing within a few years a full-body prosthetic that will enable paralyzed people to regain mobility in their arms, legs, and core muscles.

Miguel Nicolelis / Duke University

Scientists are reporting progress in their efforts to channel brain waves to power mechanical devices, a development that could someday help paralyzed people regain mobility.

A person who suffers a brain-stem or spinal-cord injury because of an accident, stroke or disease can lose the ability to transmit the brain's messages to the rest of the body. Tapping these brain signals, and rerouting them by other means to artificial limbs or other devices, could enable a paralyzed person to perform some everyday functions, from picking up a fork to walking, scientists expect.

With paralysis, "the body you live in has changed. You need to remap" how commands from the brain get to the rest of the body, says Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist and leader of the so-called brain-machine-interface research program at Duke University's school of medicine. Dr. Nicolelis says the program recently received a grant to begin testing on people in 2014 a full-body prosthetic controlled solely by the patient's brain waves.

From The Wall Street Journal
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