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Thread: Muscles Controlled by Someone Else's Brain

  1. #1
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    Muscles Controlled by Someone Else's Brain

    I saw this TED Talk a long time ago and am wondering why no one ran with it? Wouldn't work for me 32yrs into paralysis, but for new injuries to walk or navigate stairs etc? Quads moving fingers, etc?

    What am I missing?

    https://www.ted.com/talks/greg_gage_...pt?language=en

    Make America Sane Again. lol

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  2. #2
    The system presented in the video is infinitely simpler than the title would suggest. Technically, this isn't even controlling someone else's arm with your brain - from an engineering perspective, it's controlling a pair of stimulating electrodes with signals from a muscle. One muscle signal to one pair of electrodes is not nearly as complex as a system that would be needed to allow someone to walk up stairs or manipulate individual fingers (and I'm assuming you mean manipulate individual fingers to do things like type or open a bottle with ease).

    To accomplish something like that, you'd have to implant stimulators into every individual muscle you want to control, then read very fine motor signals directly from the motor cortex of the brain (again requiring an implant inside, or at least on the surface of the brain), take tons of time (at least a few weeks, I'm guessing) to de-code what every little signal from the motor cortex meant (bend one's finger this way with this much force, vs. another way with a different amount of force), then spend much more time figuring out how to correlate every little signal from the motor cortex with perfectly timed stimulation to each muscle required for each movement, somehow connect the motor cortex implant to the stimulators and find a reliable way to power them, then spend tons more time training each movement. And to top it all of, a system like this wouldn't even incorporate sensory feedback, meaning you wouldn't necessarily be able to feel how hard you were contracting a muscle - meaning you might not have any idea if you were going to crush an egg when you picked it up, or if you were going to slam your foot down every time you tried to go up stairs.

    There actually are labs around the world working on systems like this. But my guess is, and I'm just trying to be realistic, it is going to take a bloody long time - probably decades - to produce something life-changing for people with SCI.

  3. #3
    Senior Member khmorgan's Avatar
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    Personally, I don't feel like the desirable solution is mechanical (or electronic). I think the preferable solution is to repair the physical damage to the spinal cord and then help the brain reconfigure itself to control the newly reconnected sensors (nerves) and actuators (muscles). A healthy active brain can figure things out given functional connections with exercise. Of course, simulators (or nerve amplifiers) and motorized suits, may help the brain learn, but I'm not thrilled with the idea of the end goal being to put on some a million dollar exoskeleton and stumble around like Frankenstein with no improved sensation.
    Yes, I too am too old to benefit from whatever solution comes along.
    My only piece of advice to younger SCIs is not to sit and wait for a cure. Your life is flying by.
    If you disagree, that's your prerogative, I really don't care.

  4. #4
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    I was thinking more like taking stairs if you have a partner doing them with you .. exaggerating and monitoring your movements. Guess there would be foot drop though
    Make America Sane Again. lol

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  5. #5
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    My 2 cents, as someone who does this for a living: tomsonite is right, and I agree with khmorgan. We're much closer to the solution tomsonite talked about, but it's still extremely expensive and risky. The nerve repair solution is the "best" solution, but there's a tremendous amount of red tape in the way. There's a company here in Gainesville called Axogen that could probably do it, but the cost and time associated with human clinical trials, regulatory approvals, etc. is astronomical. We'll get there, but progress in this space is slow.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by lynnifer View Post
    I was thinking more like taking stairs if you have a partner doing them with you .. exaggerating and monitoring your movements. Guess there would be foot drop though
    From a neural control of movement perspective, walking up and down stairs in an insanely advanced task. Add in the electrical engineering aspect of it - relying on someone moving to get you moving with FES, as you suggest - I truly wonder if the computing power even exists to pull something like that off. Foot drop would be the least of your worries - the complexity of stabilizing the hip joint alone is daunting.

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