Neuroscience Recent Discoveries: tetraplegic man learns to walk with robotic exoskeleton

The brain and body are completely tied into each other by our nervous system.

The exoskeleton is controlled by brain signals generated by implanted epidural sensor. The brain can still be employed to direct an external system, even though the links may have been severed by an injury, infection or metabolic disease condition. Future application abound with all senses, including vision and hearing, as well as movement.

The brain’s pathways for movement is now being activated. I would suspect that this would lead to a compensatory increase in the density of the motor cortex of the brain.

Welcome to a new generation of neuroscience discovery and biomedical engineering advancements!

Our peripheral nervous system directly affects the brain, and our brain actively accommodates to learning and development as well as changes as a result of injury, illness and infection in the periphery – a process known as neuroplasticity.

Hebb’s theory of “if it fires together it wires together,” applies to the concept of adjustments that the brain makes in neurogenesis to accommodate for learning or change in the signaling. In the absence of firing, there is atrophy (shrinkage). One example, peripheral neuropathy results in a reduction of grey matter volume, and in painful peripheral neuropathy, this is associated with the somatomotor cortex.

This has similarly been shown in limb amputees who do not use their prostheses compared to those that use them.

Now, if we are trying to look at this preventatively, I would suggest the simple concept of “use it or lose it”, with “it” being the body and “it” #2 being the brain. Diseases or conditions which affect one aspect of our nervous system exert their effect along the whole pathway.

Biomedical engineering enhancements may reduce brain atrophy after a significant neurologic event and may provide a chance by which a person may have an improved quality of life.

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