Could we use electrical induction to transmit messages acrossed a damaged spine?

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Paul Anderson

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Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Dear Chris and team,

Using the way that an electrical transformer works (inductance) and the recharging of battery toothbrushes, when someone's spine is broken, could two sleeves of coils of wire, one from the top half and one from lower half be intertwined to continue the messages between the brain and the lower parts of the body? It may need some amplification, but it's the idea I would like to see getting off the ground. The refinements can follow. I presume I will be told that this has already been tried and hasn't worked. If it hasn't worked, can someone tell me why it hasn't worked? Is it because it needs to be more than just electrical? Does it need to be electrochemical or something? In the old days of valve radios the signal got amplified by grids imposing the signal upon the flow of electrons between cathode and anode. Even if someone had to wear a thick power belt around one's waist, I think I would put up with that if it meant I could get my legs back in action.
I have just been listening to the news of some Palestinian lass being paralysed possibly for life now, and I just wish there was something we could do to help not just this lass, but anyone who is a paraplegic or tetraplegic.

What do you think?


Offline Chemistry4me

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Studies are underway to determine how to “jumpstart” the pathway that stimulates neurogenesis, the birth of new nerve cells.


Offline RD

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Induction has been used to stimulate the brain ...

Electrodes have been used to activate paralysed legs ...

I don't think the currents in nerves created by induction could be controlled sufficiently to produce useful movement (walking). The nerves to the leg muscles have to be activated in a particular sequence to walk, an induction coil placed over the sciatic nerve would activate all the leg muscles simultaneously producing a useless twitch.
« Last Edit: 30/01/2009 02:10:07 by RD »