For those paralyzed, life represents highly complex sets of tasks that used to be routine and often taken for granted. Things like getting around your own home and reaching for things can take on a whole new difficulty never seen before and the frustration is highly understandable for those that have enjoyed the freedom of full mobility prior or those that never have, but long to be able to be what some would consider 'normal.'
However, scientists are very close to making the dream a reality. Researchers have successfully implanted microchips into primate's brains that allow them to reach for things with robotic arms. This area of neural prosthetics was once considered science fiction but scientists still worked diligently to finding a way to make this a reality and it's almost here. "There's going to be an explosion in neural prosthetics," says Jose Carmena, a Neuro-Engineer at UC Berkeley.
While some things such as a cochlear implant and mind controlled cursors have enjoyed public success, these new devices actually allow for new prosthetic limbs attached to people, in the near future, to be moved just as if the prosthetics were part of the person; just like if they were their own limbs.
There are a few issues to be worked out such as the life of the battery and will the surface area be large enough to decoded hundreds of complex brain signals from brain neurons. Nevertheless, this is a great first step in allowing those that are physically challenged from living a fully free motion lifestyle and also feel like they're more like everyone else that enjoys those freedoms also. Now we can not only dream, but can actually envision this happening and within a timetable that's not futuristic science fiction.
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