A team of researchers Cornell University has demonstrated that it is possible to ‘control paralyzed limbs purely with thoughts.’
The field that studies brain-machine interfaces has been making leaps and bounds in recent years, leading to the possibility that one day we’ll be able to cure most forms of paralysis. The path towards deciphering our complex nervous system has only begun, but advancements in this field have given some paralyzed individuals glimpses of hope—especially in regards to integrated robotics technology. While these researches are attempting to replace human limbs with robotic ones, the Cornell study is attempting to restore a person’s movement ‘naturally.’
Using a pair of monkeys, Cornell University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering team was able to demonstrate ‘that a subject can control a paralyzed limb purely with thoughts.’ That is, the study is providing additional insights into how modern medicine can ‘help patients regain control of their own limbs.’
In their tests and proof of concept, the scientists heavily sedated one monkey to mimic paralysis and linked its spinal cord to another monkey’s brain to see if there would be movements from the paralyzed limbs of the sedated monkey. The result was that the master (the brain) was able to control the paralyzed monkey’s (the avatar) movements with the aid of a computer model, proving that ‘just by thinking, subjects can move an arm in two dimensions’ even though there are no physiological connection between the brain and muscle.
What differentiate the Cornell researchers’ study is that, according to their claims, they were able to decode brain signals used for directing the monkey’s movement, rather than the step-by-step processes required for movement. Another new claim was that they used two different monkeys, in separate parts, to demonstrate the manipulation of movement via brain-spinal connection.
The study is proof that there is a possibility that modern medicine may one day be able to fully re-connect and repair damaged nervous systems, and restoring a paralyzed patient’s ability to move. Data and insights gathered by the Cornell team, in conjunction with other studies of the nervous system, are pieces to the paralysis puzzle.