Thoughts translate to actions

October 13, 2003

Some 200,000 people live with partial or nearly total permanent paralysis in the United States, with spinal cord injuries adding 11,000 new cases each year. Most research aimed at recovering motor function has focused on repairing damaged nerve fibers, which has succeeded in restoring limited movement in animal experiments. But regenerating nerves and restoring complex motor behavior in humans are far more difficult, prompting researchers to explore alternatives to spinal cord rehabilitation.

One promising approach involves circumventing neuronal damage by establishing connections between healthy areas of the brain and virtual devices, called brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), programmed to transform neural impulses into signals that can control a robotic device. While experiments have shown that animals using these artificial actuators can learn to adjust their brain activity to move robot arms, many issues remain unresolved, including what type of brain signal would provide the most appropriate inputs to program these machines.

As they report in this paper, Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues have helped clarify some of the fundamental issues surrounding the programming and use of BMIs. Presenting results from a series of long-term studies in monkeys, they demonstrate that the same set of brain cells can control two distinct movements, the reaching and grasping of a robotic arm. This finding has important practical implications for spinal-cord patients--if different cells can perform the same functions, then surgeons have far more flexibility in how and where they can introduce electrodes or other functional enhancements into the brain. The researchers also show how monkeys learn to manipulate a robotic arm using a BMI. And they suggest how to compensate for delays and other limitations inherent in robotic devices to improve performance.

By charting the relationship between neural signals and motor movements, Nicolelis et al. demonstrate how BMIs can work with healthy neural areas to reconfigure the brain's motor command neuronal elements and help restore intentional movement. These findings, they say, suggest that such artificial models of arm dynamics could one day be used to retrain the brain of a patient with paralysis, offering patients not only better control of prosthetic devices but the sense that these devices are truly an extension of themselves.
-end-
Link: http://www.plos.org/downloads/plbi-01-02-carmena.pdf

CONTACT:
Miguel Nicolelis
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC 27710
United States of America
919-684-4580
nicoleli@neuro.duke.edu.

PLOS

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.