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A diagram shows how researchers first severed the nerve connection with the monkeys' arms and then reconnected their wrists via a rerouted connection to a single neuron. The monkeys were able to then move their wrists and play the game shown, which earned them treats.  (Source: Chet Moritz et al Nature)
Research are finding that rerouting nerve signals in primates may be surprisingly easy

DailyTech previously covered how monkeys had been wired with brain probes to a mechanical arm, which they learned to control.  Now another experiment has taken such concepts, much farther, reversing paralysis in monkeys through neuron implantation.

Eberhard Fetz, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington, led the research.  The researchers began by paralyzing the nerves leading to the monkeys' arms.  They then placed a single wire on a neuron in the monkeys’ neural cortexes.  From there they routed the signal to a single neuron implanted in the monkeys' arm muscles.  The computer detected a specific firing pattern in the brain neuron and would then signal the neuron in the arm.

The electric "re-routing" working surprisingly well and the monkeys regained control of their wrists.  Their new capability was assessed by a simple video game.  The game was controlled by the monkeys' wrist motions.  By moving their wrists, they could move a cursor onscreen and by moving it to a box on the side, they could earn a reward.  With the incentive of the reward the monkeys soon learned to move their wrists, even though the motor cortex neuron was selected at random.

Chet Moritz, a senior research fellow at the University of Washington and coauthor of the researchers' paper states, "We found, remarkably, that nearly every neuron that we tested in the brain could be used to control this type of stimulation.  Even neurons which were unrelated to the movement of the wrist before the nerve block could be brought under control and co-opted."

The research is published in the latest online version of the journal Nature.

Most previous research had focused on complex firing patterns.  This is because typically even moving one arm muscle results from the firing of multiple neurons in a coordinated pattern.  The success of the single neuron approach raises new questions about how exactly the primate nervous system processes signals.

Regardless of the mechanics, the approach works, and Moritz says that it will be very useful as it requires less computing power.  In order to apply the new research to paralyzed patients, more work remains to be done.  Most importantly, the researchers will have to learn to make multiple rerouted muscles fire coordinately as they would in the body in a complex motion such as walking, or picking up an object.

For this reason, Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, remains a skeptic of the new efforts.  He states, "If your intention is to generate a movement, you have to somehow calculate the effect of all these forces across the arm.  It's not just, 'Activate a muscle and the arm goes where you want.' There's a lot of math involved."

Still, the University of Washington Researchers have moved forward to where one neuron controls two different wrists motions with different firing patterns mapped to each motion and another scenario in which two rerouted neurons each controlled a single muscle (direction of motion) and worked together.  Also they say one spinal cord cell, rerouted, can activate multiple arm muscles.  Moritz states, "Stimulating a single location in the spinal cord will often activate 10 to 15 different muscles in a precise balance."

The risks are also significant.  The electrodes wear down over time.  Also if they protrude out of the skin, there's major risk of infection and disruption in a normal daily environment.  The ultimate goal, the University of Washington researchers say, is miniaturization.  Says Moritz, "We think we may be one step closer to low-power, fully implantable systems."

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RE: Inhumane Animal Treatment ....
By William Gaatjes on 10/19/2008 3:23:43 PM , Rating: 1
There you have your moral and ethical discussion.

Hypothetical speaking :
Let's say we have a law that permits us to use organs of prisoners that have received the death penalty. They shall be killed in a non toxic way (local anesthetic to sleep and a painless death and a pin through the head for example similair like cows and pigs are killed for meat) to preserve the quality of the organs. That way these prisoners could redeem themselves by helping patients who have not commited a crime but will die soon because of a failling organ. I would not have a problem that prisoners who do not get a death sentence would be asked to be donor's for example a kidney in exchange of sentence reducement. You can live to be old on 1 kidney.
Let's say this would be allowed. Now you have the problem that some patients surely would rather die then have a liver or a heart for example from a pedophile on death row.

If you want animal experiments to stop, make sure we can do the stemcell research to just grow a body with only a redimentary brain to keep the body alive but without cortex or other brain parts related to higher brainfunctions that makes us who we are. That we we can do the research we need to do to protext ourselves from diseases, have organ's for patients untill we can grow them form the patient themselves. As long as stemcell research on humans is not possible in a more advanced way , we have no choice to use animals for every experiment. Denying door 1 leads to door number 2. It is that simple.

RE: Inhumane Animal Treatment ....
By Yossarian22 on 10/20/2008 12:05:27 AM , Rating: 2
A farce of a discussion if there ever was one.
Ethics in this field is concerned with two questions.
1: What deserve to have rights?
2: What are those rights?
The OPs 'discussion' was nothing more than empty, incoherent, rhetorical drivel. His post directly contradicts itself (If we don't have the right to test on animals, what gives us the right to imprison other humans, let alone test medicine, on them? ).
Your problem isn't one. I have the choice of rejecting treatment. If that is somehow a problem, then it is one every single instance of medicine shares.

RE: Inhumane Animal Treatment ....
By William Gaatjes on 10/20/2008 1:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh, i was not hoping for a discussion, just to let people think.

You see, Most prisoners do not have a clean bill of health. It is very likely the organs aren't in a good shape either. And the prisoners who live healthy and just want to start a new life after they get out are not the once waiting for death sentence to be executed. As always there are exceptions but when it comes to testing medicines or donor organs we are not talking about exceptions.

No, i personally feel for more research to stemcells and dna to grow in the future what we need for donor applications and for new medicines or new to be discovered knowledge. I can understand that using embryo's or foetuses is not that easy. I would not feel good about it at all as images and sounds and accompanying feelings of crying children pop up in my mind. And that is why i could live with the idea that a body could be made but not a person for medical research as described in my former post.

By William Gaatjes on 10/20/2008 1:57:47 PM , Rating: 2
argh, typo. Once must be ones.

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