AI's use in medicine could soon extend to one of the medical world's toughest challenges: helping the paralyzed regain movement. Intel and Brown University have started work on a DARPA-backed Intelligent Spine Interface project that would use AI to restore movement and bladder control for those with serious spinal cord injuries. The two-year effort will have scientists capture motor and sensory signals from the spinal cord, while surgeons will implant electrodes on both ends of an injury to create an "intelligent bypass." From there, neural networks running on Intel tools will (hopefully) learn how to communicate motor commands through the bypass and restore functions lost to severed nerves. The initial interface will use external computing hardware to interpret spine signals.
Ian Burkhart prepares for a training session in Columbus, Ohio. To move muscles in Burkhart's hand, the system relies on electrodes implanted in his brain, a computer interface attached to his skull, and electrical stimulators wrapped around his forearm. Ian Burkhart prepares for a training session in Columbus, Ohio. To move muscles in Burkhart's hand, the system relies on electrodes implanted in his brain, a computer interface attached to his skull, and electrical stimulators wrapped around his forearm. Ian Burkhart, now 24, was paralyzed in 2010 after diving into a wave in shallow water.
Three paraplegics have walked for the first time in years after being fitted with a revolutionary new device. Electrically stimulating the patients' spinal cords helped them regain control of their legs after just one week. Swiss researchers found surgically placing electrodes in the paralysed participants' backbones activated signals that told their brains to walk. These signals are thought to have triggered the growth of new nerve connections in the spinal cord of the patients. Therefore, even after the electrodes were turned off, the patients were still able to walk up to a kilometre without tiring.
"Go, go!" was the thought racing through Grégoire Courtine's mind. The French neuroscientist was watching a macaque monkey as it hunched aggressively at one end of a treadmill. His team had used a blade to slice halfway through the animal's spinal cord, paralyzing its right leg. Now Courtine wanted to prove he could get the monkey walking again. To do it, he and colleagues had installed a recording device beneath its skull, touching its motor cortex, and sutured a pad of flexible electrodes around the animal's spinal cord, below the injury.
The researchers used an implant in the motor cortex of the brain – which controls the movement of limbs. The brain-spine interface uses a brain implant like this one to detect spiking activity of the brain's motor cortex. Pictured is the brain implant and a silicon model of a primate's brain Two paralysed monkeys have been helped to walk using chips embedded in their brains. The animals displayed'nearly normal locomotion' as the system decoded nerve activity and wirelessly transmitted signals that stimulated leg muscles The system decodes activity from the brain's motor cortex and then relays this information to a system of electrodes located over the surface of the lumbar spinal cord, below the injury As the surgery used components that have been approved for research in humans, the technology could be rapidly developed for human use. Grégoire Courtine is pictured holding a silicon model of a primate's brain and a brain implant Gregoire Courtine and colleagues tested the device in two Rhesus monkeys whose legs had been paralysed by a partial cutting of their spinal cords.