Chicago doctors are pioneering a technique they say is allowing some patients to move arms that have been paralyzed for years.
"It involves putting an electrode not in the brain but on the surface of the brain at precisely the area of the brain that codes for movements of the paralyzed arm," says Dr. Robert Levy, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
An implanted chest battery powers the electrode, hopefully enough to stimulate the growth of new brain cells to replace those that died. After surgery, the stimulators are turned on whenever the patients go through their occupational therapy. Then, after six weeks, the electrodes are removed.
So far, researchers say the results are significant. Patients with the stimulators are showing a 20% improvement over those who did not receive the implant, but more study is needed. Researchers are hopeful that someday these brain implants may offer the stimulation needed to get paralyzed limbs moving again.