Monkey breakthrough to benefit paralysed humans

11:30 AEST Mon Apr 23 2012
Lianzi Fields
Scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago have managed to reverse hand paralysis in monkeys
Scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago have managed to reverse hand paralysis in monkeys (Thinkstock)

Scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago have managed to reverse hand paralysis in monkeys, which could be the next big breakthrough to find better systems to restore hand control to people.

The researchers inserted 100 electrodes into the brains of two monkeys and recorded their brain activity as they used their hands and arms to repeatedly place a ball into a tube.

The monkeys’ hands and wrists were then paralysed with anaesthetic, and a comparison of brain activity before and after the paralysis was made.

By predicting the muscle movements that the monkeys wanted to make, the scientists were then able to trigger electronic signals in the brain to stimulate hand movement and replicate that action, which was successful in 80 percent of all attempts.

"If you walked into the room, you wouldn't realise the monkey is paralysed," said Lee Miller, a researcher at the university.

"By going directly to the brain, we have potential access to a much richer set of control signals that represent the actual movement the patient is attempting to make."

The findings have been published the current issue of science journal Nature. Amazing footage of the monkeys before and after paralysis can be seen above.



Ask our experts

Should I continue my affair with a married man? Our answer SEX & RELATIONSHIPS EXPERT Dr Gabrielle Morrissey

What's your BMI?

Tools

Body Mass Index Measure your BMI >>Find out if your body is in the healthy body mass index range. Calorie CounterCalorie CounterKeep track of your daily dietary intake. Burn BarometerBurn BarometerHow much exercise should you be doing?