June 20 - Scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago are making significant advances in paralysis research. The team have been successful in restoring a paralyzed monkey's ability to control its muscles through a brain-computer interface. Katharine Jackson reports.
It's like they're rhesus monkey takes up a ball and -- into its Latin. Rewarded with just -- sweet fruit juice he repeats the process again and again. It's one of several monkeys taking part in groundbreaking research at Chicago's Northwestern University. This study is aimed at finding a new way for people paralyzed by spinal cord injury in their -- again. To simulate spinal cord injury scientist numb the monkey's arm with anesthetic. Try it seemed like the monkey cannot put the ball in the flat. That is until they switch on a connection between electrodes in the monkey's brain. A computer and electrodes in a monkey's arm muscles neuroscientist and -- -- Weekend. Give him back the ability to. Activate those muscles and that quite natural ways so he's still able to pick up a ball -- -- under his control. Neuroscientist -- an AT and says the experiment shows it's possible to bypass the spinal cord. Connecting dots to muscle movements through a computer. The monkey's movement begins with a four millimeters -- implant. Inside it's brain. It's a tiny. Tiny silicon chip that has. Under various no hair thin. And it shows and it sits right on the surface of the motor cortex the part of the brain that controls the movements. And -- -- electrodes pickup deputy from. Their homes and in the cortex. The electrodes detect impulses from 100 neurons and transmit data along wires to an amplifier on the -- head. -- amplified data is then sent to the computer showing up as waves on the screen said in a crackling noise. Neuroscience professor -- Millard is meeting this study. The computer is really the heart of the matter it takes these hundreds signals coming from the brain. Extract the information from them related to what the muscles are doing and does this conversion from from brain signals into muscles. To turn brain waves into motion the computer uses an equation as scientists developed while the monkey's arm was functioning normally. He thinks about moving his hand and neurons fire sending signals to his muscles that allowed him to grab the ball and dropped it into the slot. Then when a monkey's arm is temporarily paralyzed the computer records the neuron firings. And uses the equation to determine the corresponding muscles signals. This signals are sent to the electrodes implanted in a monkey's arm muscles triggering their movement. AT and says and Euro prosthesis like this could allow people with spinal cord injury to move their bodies using only their thoughts. Central front of -- that's how much more natural way of controlling this commission and the muscle activation. And so we hope that it's gonna provide thing though that's -- -- size two to restore and -- movement. This system can't get captured the complexity of brain activity that reduces the movement. And the monkey is not grabbing dropped the ball perfectly every time. But the scientists say over time the monkey improves learning to live his hand with his brain. And if a rhesus monkey like spike can do it they predict so can human. Katherine Jackson Reuters.