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Brain Implants May Help Stroke Patients
Scientists have shown for the first time that neuroprosthetic brain implants may be able to help stroke patients with partial paralysis.
Researchers found that implants known as brain-computer interfaces (BCI) may be able to detect activity on one side of the brain that is linked to hand and arm movements on the same side of the body. They hope to use these signals to guide motorized assistance mechanisms that restore mobility in partially paralyzed limbs.
Partial paralysis on one side of the body results from stroke damage to the opposite side of the brain. "In recent years, though, we've come to realize that there's actually some ipsilateral, or same-sided control signals involved in movement," says senior author Eric C. Leuthardt, M.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery, of neurobiology and of biomedical engineering at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "Now we've shown these signals can be detected and are separable from signals that control the opposite side of the body, which means we may be able to use a BCI to restore function."
BCIs bridge gaps from brain damage and other injuries by using implanted electrodes to link the brain to a computer. The implant relays brain signals to the computer, which interprets those signals to control prosthetic devices or other means of interacting with the environment.
BCIs formerly consisted of small electrodes implanted inside brain tissue to record from individual brain cells. Leuthardt and his colleagues have been developing a different approach known as electrocorticography (ECoG), which uses a plastic sheet filled with electrodes. The sheet rests on the surface of the brain, recording from many neurons at once.
Leuthardt's team has shown that the ECoG approach can reveal useful insights into what a patient wants to do by analyzing signals from groups of neurons, rather than single neurons. Examples include a desire to move a hand or to speak.
REHACARE.de; Source: Washington University in St. Louis
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