Could brain controlled artificial limbs benefit cerebal palsy sufferers?

22 June 2008

Question

I was listening a couple of weeks ago about the brain controlled electronic lymph systems and I was wondering if they would be of any benefit to cerebral palsy sufferers?

Answer

One of the problems people with cerebral palsy have is very often a sort of 'locked in' syndrome. They have preserved intellect and a very acute brain but the problem is it's translating the messages of what they want to do down to the bits of the body that can make those things happen such as move the limbs or walk around. That's where they have the problem. The device that you're referring to is a piece of work that's been done by Andrew Schwarz. He's in America and what he's done is to produce a system, a computer that can decode the neurological chitchat that goes on in the brain's motor-neurone areas and work out what sort of movement (at this stage a monkey) but a monkey's brain works very similarly to how ours works. He can decode the chit-chat between the cells and get the monkeys to move a robot arm which enables them to feed themselves so very fine and accurate movements just by listening to what the brain's doing. I don't think there's any doubt that it would be possible to use something similar for cerebral palsy. There's every reason to think that it might just work. At the moment, no one's actually doing it in humans although they are doing it in a very limited way they're not actually doing it at the resolution that these people in America are. It's very experimental.

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