Brain implants connected to robotic brace to help mobility after stroke?

Thomas Jefferson University researchers learn through single patient if brain implants can help stroke patients overcome abnormal movement and restore abilities

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BrainBrain is still a mystery to even researchers. The latest is: A single patient at Thomas Jefferson University will help researchers learn if brain implants connected to a robotic brace can help stroke patients overcome abnormal movement and restore abilities.

They have initiated a clinical trial using a brain implant and robotic brace to test a method that could one day offer hundreds of thousands of stroke patients with long-term disability a new option for better mobility.

According to principal investigator of the study Mijail Serruya, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University, who was part of the team that implanted the first human with a brain electrode 15 years ago, “this is the first person ever with this very common type of stroke to be implanted with brain electrodes that send neuronal signals to an arm brace that then controls movement.”

He added: “This study serves as a proof of concept, a necessary bridge to future studies that would use fully implanted wireless electrodes to improve movement after stroke.”

Earlier, other clinical trials of brain-computer interface, or BCI, focused on patients with the much more rare and devastating form of brainstem stroke or spinal cord injury that causes paralysis from the neck down, or even locked-in syndrome that renders patients incapable of movement.

In those patients, electrodes that recorded brain signals were implanted in the brain tissue and connected by wires extending through the skull to a computer.

The patients’ neuronal signal — their intention to move — was then decoded and interpreted by artificial intelligence algorithms into moving a cursor on a screen, a robotic arm or muscle stimulators.

In every 40 seconds

In the US, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, resulting in death every 4 minutes. Stroke is the leading cause of disability from a medical condition.

And, when it happens, blood clots or bleeds kill a part of the brain – it goes dark – and can no longer control part of the body. People stop being able to walk, see, talk, or control their hand or arm the way they once did.

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Despite the presence of treatments, they only work within a short window from the start of a stroke. Rehab can restore some function, but improvements typically plateau in about six months.

(With inputs from The OnLook News Research Bureau)

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