A 24 year-old quadriplegic patient with a cervical spinal cord injury has been able to move his hand, pour the contents of a glass, and play Guitar Hero with the aid of an implanted chip that transmits signals directly to his arm muscles. In the April 13 Nature, researchers led by Ali Rezai from Ohio State University in Columbus report that by combining a motor cortical multi-electrode array with a neuromuscular electric stimulation system worn as a sleeve, a paralyzed patient could control six different hand and finger movements that involved grasping, manipulating and releasing objects. After 15 months of training, this neural bypass system was able to help the patient regain movement similar to a lower cervical spinal cord injury. Further testing would be necessary to explore whether this type of device could be adapted for ALS patients, who exhibit cortical motor neuron degeneration.
Bouton CE, Shaikhouni A, Annetta NV, Bockbrader MA, Friedenberg DA, Nielson DM, Sharma G, Sederberg PB, Glenn BC, Mysiw WJ, Morgan AG, Deogaonkar M, Rezai AR. Restoring cortical control of functional movement in a human with quadriplegia. Nature. 2016 Apr 13. [Pubmed].