New research from the University of Washington (UW) could make life easier for the one in 50 Americans affected by limb paralysis. Last December, the National Science Foundation (NSF) renewed a $16 million grant that will allow UW’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) to continue its research on the first implantable device that may restore mobility to paralyzed limbs by aiding the brain’s signaling process.
For people with paralyzed limbs, the device bridges the gap between the desire to move and actual movement, according to the center’s director, Rajesh Rao, Ph.D. Someone with paralysis might want to pick up a cup, for example, but is unable to because the brain’s signal can’t reach the nervous system.
This device, once implanted in the brain, decodes the brain’s intention to move, creating new pathways between the brain and the nervous system and stimulating the spinal cord to respond with movement. This isn’t the CSNE’s first foray into implantable brain technology; it’s also working on improving brain implants that treat Parkinson’s tremors. The CSNE hopes to have this device tested in humans within the next five years, paving the way for FDA approval.