Paralyzed macaques with major spinal injuries were able to walk again less than six days after suffering their crippling lesions, thanks to a new system called a brain-spine interface. Using strategically placed electrical implants, the new technology bypasses the damaged region of the spine, allowing signals to travel between the brain and the legs.
In a statement, study co-author Grégoire Courtine explained that “this is the first time that neurotechnology restores locomotion in primates,” but warned that “there are many challenges ahead and it may take several years before all the components of this intervention can be tested in people.”
In the absence of major injuries, signals originating in the motor cortex of the brain are relayed down the spine to the lumbar region, which consists of a network of neurons that stimulate movement in the leg muscles. However, if there is a lesion in the spine, this communication can be disrupted, leaving the brain unable to communicate with the legs.