Spinal cord injuries or strokes usually result in loss of limb control. Typically, these injuries cause interruption of the pathways that conduct impulses from the brain to the spinal cord. However, it is known that the neural circuits above and below the lesion still remain functional.
Recently, a combined effort between scientists from University of Washington, Seattle, Japan Science and Technology Agency, and National Institute for Physical Science, Japan did an experiment on a monkey with a paretic hand to see if they could restore neural activity in its hand and create natural limb movement without the help of any artificial limb. The results were pretty impressive.
The team used two approaches – first, they applied an artificial neural connection to bridge the neural
circuits above and below the lesions on the partially paralyzed monkey. This partially restored strength in the limb and allowed the monkey to move its arm purely using brainpower. Second, they also created another circuit that helped stimulate the spinal cord, thus boosting ongoing activity in the muscle.
These experiments have shown tremendous promise in curing semi paralytic people and restoring natural movement in their limbs without the need of any artificial/bionic limbs. We should hopefully get more promising news in the near future!
Check the source links for more details. There’s also a direct link to a pdf of the full paper.
Source: NIPS, Frontiers via Engadget