Scientists Put Smart Brain Implants In Paralyzed Monkeys, Are Humans Next?

Source: Xataka

Everything that we unconsciously define as ‘alive,’ is something that has the ability to move. For humans, philosophically speaking, we could say we are the hurry and the wait, so that we are made of time, and in the meantime, we are always marching on. Same happens with the flowers, the animals, or even the robots. We have been made to follow the rotation and translation of the Earth, and even in other galaxies, we’d be irrepressible living beings of movement.

That being said, what if medicine will give you the chance to move after a hard accident by implanting a futuristic brain implant in your head? Would you turn into a half-robotic being in return of the valuable pleasure of motion? You don’t have to answer now, but check it out the astonishing advancement in paralyzed monkeys that could be an answer for paraplegic humans in no time at all.

Source: Alain Herzog/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Primate-to-primate: human trials with futuristic brain implants

Recently, a massive breakthrough study, published in detail at Nature, reveals how two paralytic monkeys were able to gait once again. After testing a wireless brain-computer interface (BCI), the technic name given to the medical gadget, the monkeys with injuries that did not allow mobility on one of their hind legs, results were astoundingly positive — With at least a decade to fine-tune the technology for uses in humans, according to the researchers.

But wait, finally, do we descend from monkeys or they are only some sort of cousins and that’s an ancient myth? Even though we are not from the same family that primates, monkeys and us share around 98% of the DNA, to name but one of the similarities that inspire neurologists and experts in the field to start human trials.

So, being said that we have in common a lot of resemblances with the specie, transition might be quite quick from the premise that our bodies are greatly similar to that of monkeys.  On the other hand, although it’s likely the first time you and me heard about some sort of brain implant that can solve body paralysis, and which is very different than just a very advanced wheelchair, after these findings it’s already possible to sketch the possible features and design of the life-changing medical gadget of tomorrow.

Source: Alain Herzog/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

A tech-bridge between the brain and the spinal cord

So how will it look like and function a BCI? The smart brain implants already tested in monkeys, in a nutshell, consist in an efficient method to connect the brain to the spinal nerve, which controls the movement of muscles after an injury. So far, the attempts have been just complex solutions that require large connected computers and even prostheses with a large number of cables. Lastly, they didn’t ever restore movement in patients. That being said, the first important characteristic is there won’t be cables at all; it’ll be medical wireless tech, in other words.

On another note, the smart brain implant will be able to receive all the signals that originate in the cerebral cortex and send them to other previously grafted cells, installed in the spine and paired with the BCI, creating a virtual bridge between both the brain and the spinal cord.

Finally, though there are lots of big questions and doubts around the subject like if we’ll be machine controlled, hackable, or even if we’ll need considering to eventually update our Human OS, other features to highlight is that the materials researchers used are legal for human apply in Switzerland, so that legally wouldn’t be either that complex to establish a technology of this weight.

In terms of recovery, one of the monkeys regained mobility at six days, while the other did so within two weeks, which demonstrate the versatility of the already good results found in brain implants, and how much is needed to polish before daring to try with humans.

In any case, did you know that a gadget like that could change the lives of approximately 282,000 people only within the U.S.? Spinal cord injuries have been a subject misunderstood and quite ignored by our society, for not getting in detail with how many cities are not even livable for handicapped.