COULD hacking our reflexes allow paralysed people to walk again? Some animals have walking reflexes governed by nerves in their spine – it's why a chicken continues to run after its head has been cut off. Now these reflexes have let paralysed monkeys regain use of their legs after a week or two of practice. Previous methods have taken months. We have no reliable means to reconnect severed nerves in people with injured spinal cords.
Twitter and Shakespeare's Globe Theater have partnered to prove the infinite monkey theorem, which states that monkeys infinitely typing at random could eventually re-create the complete works of William Shakespeare. The project uses a machine to capture the random keystrokes of one group of monkeys: Twitter users. In the Globe Theater's lobby in London, a typewriter is hooked up via a mass of wires to a computer that combs Twitter looking for tweets that contain certain words. Starting with "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," the machine types out the entire play, word for word, as soon as a match is found in the Twitter-sphere. Launching the project yesterday, the machine has already gotten to Act 4 of the play, or around 1.22% of the complete works.
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.
The mother of teenager Letisha Shakespeare, who was shot dead 14 years ago, is receiving an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. Marcia Shakespeare is being recognised for her work fighting gangs and gun-crime. She told the BBC it was a "bittersweet" moment and described how she had sworn to do something positive following her daughter's murder.