CLEVELAND, OHIO -- Neural engineers at Case Western Reserve University have reportedly found a way to control the muscles of an unconscious patient by using pulses of electricity, which could allow people with paralyzed legs to regain control of their muscles and so be able to stand, or even walk again.
According to New Scientist magazine, Matthew Schiefer, a neural engineer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio has been developing a workaround for spinal injury. Normally, the brain relays commands down the nerves in the spinal cord and out to the muscles. When a spinal injury occurs and breaks that link, the signals cannot make it to the muscles and thus, people are left paralyzed.
Schiefer's device could hard-wire a connection to the nerves and selectively control muscles, as if the signal had originated in the brain. Limbs that might otherwise never again be controlled by their owners can be brought back to life.
"The leg wasn't bouncing all over the table, but there were substantial twitches," says Schiefer to NewScientist. The neural engineer was referencing one of his experiments.
This approach was demonstrated in 2006 when a different Case Western team enabled someone who was paralyzed from the waist down to straighten their knees at the push of a button. With support, the patient stood for 2 minutes while signals injected into nerves in their thighs kept their knees straight.
That method plugged into one joint. Schiefer's experiment plugs into a nerve to control the four muscles needed to stand up from a sitting position.
The full article
, written by MacGregor Campbell and NewScientist magazine can be read on their website