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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Computer translate the brain signals

Science and techno world topic: Computer
If the nerve connection between the brain and muscles is interrupted, an electronic bypass to restore at least part of the movement. This is shown by experiments on monkeys, American physicians have performed. The animals were able to handle with a ball by the control signals have been translated by computer into her brain stimulation currents for the arm muscles.

"This achievement is an important step towards the restoration of hand function in human patients," are convinced Lee Miller of Northwestern University in Chicago and his colleagues. Although only three flexor muscles were activated, the monkeys were able to grab hold a weighted rubber ball, and put in a bin, the researchers report in the journal "Nature".

Miller and colleagues conducted their experiments with two rhesus monkeys. The animals wore a thin electrode array in that area of the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for controlling the muscles in his right arm. In addition, wafer-thin wires them into the appropriate hand or finger flexors in the right forearm had been implanted.

While the monkeys were handling the ball, the researchers could measure in this way, the control signals in the brain and the resulting muscle stimulation - and train with this information, an automatic translation program. Whose performance they put to the test by temporarily numb the nerves in the arm. Although the muscles now only indirectly, via computer translation, were controlled by the brain, the two monkeys mastered the task in 80 or 90 percent of the trials. Muscle electrodes were turned off, they succeeded in this even at best 5 percent of cases. And not only was the pattern of muscle contractions, the force exerted by the muscles controlled in this way.

Could in principle with such an electronic bypass, patients are helped with paraplegia, hope Miller and colleagues. Here are the starting point is more complicated because it may be adjusted over time, problems such as muscle atrophy and spasticity. Apart from the considerable gain in independence could help to re-activate the muscles but also to eliminate such problems.

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