Full-Body Prosthetic Could Allow Paralyzed to Walk

Sensory information can be sent directly to brain: scientists
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2011 1:47 PM CDT
A full-body prosthetic device could someday allow the paralyzed to walk.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – If an international team of neuroscientists, engineers, and physiologists has its way, a quadriplegic will open the 2014 World Cup—by striding out onto the field. The team is working on a "prosthetic exoskeleton," a full-body device that would allow those who have been paralyzed to walk again. Yesterday a lead researcher announced that one major hurdle has been cleared: The team demonstrated that the sensation of touch could be sent directly to a monkey's brain, bypassing the body's nervous system, the Los Angeles Times reports.

By sending electrical currents straight to the sensory cortex, the monkeys were able to "feel" even though their fingers weren't touching anything—and they could even distinguish between different surface textures. Scientists could do the same thing with people who have been paralyzed, and the ability to "feel" could help them to navigate while using a prosthetic walker. This new breakthrough will be combined with one from 2003, in which monkeys were able to move initiate movement using only their thoughts. That development could allow quadriplegics to control a prosthetic device without moving; this new development would add an element of control.

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