Re: Helping paraplegics to walk (bypassing spinal cord)

First Security Capital (
Fri, 20 Feb 1998 21:40:02 -0500 (EST)

Can you get me the source of this article?



>Helping paraplegics to walk
>Scientists work on device that would bypass spinal cord
>By Charlene Laino
>PHILADELPHIA, Feb 17 — A small device implanted in the brain that sends
>signals to the arms and legs, bypassing the spinal cord, may soon allow
>paraplegics to walk. A patient would only have to think, “I would like to
>move my leg forward,” and the device would do the rest, a California
>researcher said.
> "On the Cutting Edge" front page
> THE DEVICE, which would look rather like the head of a toothbrush
>— a mount with electrodes as its bristles — would work similarly to a
>cellular phone, sending signals to other electrodes implanted in the
>patient’s nerves or muscles.
> A new understanding of brain circuitry is allowing scientist to
>develop the device, said Dr. Richard Andersen of the California Institute
>of Technology.
> Similar prostheses are already being used to help people who are
>deaf, he said. By stimulating different auditory nerves, the smart brains
>are helping patients to lip-read more easily.
> The new device for paraplegics is growing out of Andersen’s work on
>the physical organization of the brain.
> Using imaging scans called MRIs to record blood flow in the brain of
>monkeys, Andersen pinpointed the part of the brain that codes for
>intentions. In contrast to previous beliefs, he found that movement and the
>intention to perform a movement are controlled by different parts of the
> To make sure human brains work the same way, his team then tried the
>experiment on themselves, hooking themselves up to brain tracing devices
>and MRIs. When they only moved their eyes, they were able to detect an eye
>movement area — signaling intention — in one particular region of the
>brain, he said. Similarly, when they reached their arms out, they found an
>area in the brain that corresponded to the intention to move their arm.
> That’s what gave them the idea for the brain prostheses for people
>with spinal cord injuries, Andersen said at a scientific meeting here.
> As the California researcher envisions it, a 6mm by 3mm array of
>electrodes about the width of human hair would be implanted under the
>brain’s surface. The wires, which are attached to a transmitter, would send
>radio-type signals to other electrodes implanted in the muscles and nerves
>of the arms or legs. Normally, the spinal cord carries such signals from
>the brain to the rest of the body.
> “We’re only talking about crude movements,” Andersen said, but it’s
>better than any system that has been developed to date.
> Animal tests are about to begin, with human testing just years off.
>“We’re over all the major hurdles,” Andersen said, explaining that the time
>is needed for development.
> The prostheses are being developed in conjunction with the
>Huntington Memorial Research Institute in Pasadena.

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