Scientists Working on Neural Chips for Paralyzed Patients

| 5 Jul 2010 18:36

Technology may allow those with spinal cord injuries to regain some degree of movement.

Implanting microchips into people's brains is a staple of the sci-fi genre, usually to give some extraordinary cognitive ability, like learning how to fly a helicopter in the blink of an eye, or learning kung fu without having to spend years training. But the real versions of these chips, which are currently being worked on by British scientists, won't do anything quite so fancy. Instead, they will allow paralyzed patients to do simple things we take for granted, like picking up a cup.

"The guy can see the object he wants to reach, the guy can have the intention to reach to the object, the brain can send a command to the arm - 'reach for this cup of tea' - but the signal gets broken at the level of the spinal cord," said Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of the University of Leicester. "If we can get the signals from these neurons and interpret them with what is called decoding algorithms, then we can move a robot device placed on the paralyzed arm."

Quiroga hopes that the technology will be available within five years, but says that making the chips wireless is proving to be a big challenge. The chips will produce tens of thousands of data points and without a wire that much information is hard to send. "It's a huge amount of data, so the bandwidth won't be enough," he said. '"We're trying to do some basic processing on the chip to reduce the bandwidth. So instead of 30,000 data points per second, maybe we'll be sending 100 data points per second, or 1,000."

Source: The Telegraph


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