A formerly-paralyzed monkey is back in poop-flinging shape thanks to a pioneering technique by researchers at Japan’s Science and Technology Agency and the University of Washington. They were able to restore the monkey’s upper limb movement with a new electronic bypass system which created a neural bridge. This is some serious sci-fi stuff right here.
The monkey had a lesion on one side of its spinal cord at the C2 level. To restore the connection, this artificial neural bridge picked up signals in the spinal cord above the injury, then transmitted those signals back to the cord below the injury, bypassing the lesion entirely. The monkey was then able to use its previously-paralyzed hand.
This isn’t the first bypass system we’ve heard of, but it is a great improvement. A few years ago, researchers in Japan used a neural bridge to send signals to a paralyzed rat’s back legs. That system, however, only moved the back legs when the rat moved its front legs. This newer neural bridge reads the monkey’s own brain signals and sends them past the injury site.
Okay, monkey. You have the use of your hand back, so you can stop making excuses about how you’ll write the Great American Novel eventually. Frankly, we’re sick of hearing your lazy daydreams. Get to work.