CSNE researchers examine flexible neural recording fibers that can be used in implantable devices for restoring motor function in stroke and spinal cord injury patients. (Credit: Justin Knight Photography/MIT/Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering)

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, San Diego State University, and other partners, are developing implantable devices that can send signals between regions of the brain or nervous system that have been disconnected due to injury.

The devices record and decode electrical signals generated by the brain when a person forms an intention to move a hand or leg. The devices are able to wirelessly transmit that information, thereby creating a new artificial pathway around damaged areas of the brain or nervous system.

The same technology, they say, could also be used to promote plasticity for targeted rehabilitation in stroke and spinal cord injury patients to reconnect brain or spinal regions and helping the nervous system repair and rewire itself.

CSNE is also working on improving today’s implantable technologies, such as deep brain stimulators used to treat Parkinson’s disease and tremors. Their goal is to achieve proof-of-concept demonstrations in humans within the next five years.