Brain stent used to allow paralyzed people to move with exoskeleton

Brian G Turner

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Brain stent to let five paralysed people control exoskeleton

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MIND CONTROL without the side effects. That’s the aim of a device that could help people control robotic limbs using thought alone – without the need for brain surgery. The device will be trialled in people with paralysis next year.

Several groups are developing brain-machine interfaces that allow people who are paralysed to operate a bionic exoskeleton just by thinking about it. These devices decode electrical brain signals and translate them into movement of robotic limbs.

Usually, brain signals are detected via electrodes attached to the scalp or implanted directly in the brain. Placing them on the scalp avoids surgery, but the signals are muffled by the skull. Direct implantation allows precise recordings but the electrodes can stop working because the brain treats them as foreign bodies and wraps them in scar tissue.

Now, a research team led by Thomas Oxley at the University of Melbourne has developed a way of implanting electrodes in the brain without opening up the skull.

Their electrodes are attached to a metallic mesh tube that is guided through a small incision in the jugular vein in the neck and up into a blood vessel in the brain. There, the electrode can measure signals from nearby brain cells on the other side of the vessel wall.

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