Reconnecting Brain and Spine, AI Can Make Paralysed Patients Move

by October 11, 2019

AI for Paralyzed

Intel and Brown University have started their work in a DARPA-funded Intelligent Spine Interface Project. The project aims at employing AI technology to restore movement and bladder control for patients paralyzed by critical spinal cord injuries. DARPA or Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the US Department of Defence. The agency is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for military-purpose use.

The corporate vice-president and general manager of the AI Products Group, Intel Group, Naveen Rao said, “As a Ph.D. student at Brown, I investigated how to interface the brain with machines as an application. Now at Intel, we are combining our AI expertise with Brown University’s cutting-edge medical research to help solve a critical medical problem: how to reconnect the brain and spine after a major spinal injury.”


Need for AI

Well, we are well aware of the complexity a human body holds. In such cases, the human body is not able to regenerate severed nerve fibers. During a severe spinal injury, the electrical commands generated by the brain no longer reach the muscles causing the serious condition of paralysis. Therefore, AI has been chosen to resolve the issue.


How Does Project work?

Researchers will record motor and sensory signals from the cord during the two-year program. They will use AI neural networks to learn how to trigger the post-injury site to communicate motor commands. The Rhode Island Hospital’s Surgeons (near Brown University) will implant electrode arrays on both ends of a patient’s injury site. This will create an intelligent bypass to eventually enable the severed nerves to communicate in real-time. The paralyzed patients will go through regular physical therapy during which their implanted device will record and stimulate the spine.

Additionally, the researchers will leverage Intel AI open-source software (nGraph) and Intel AI accelerator hardware to match the real-time requirements of this application.

David Borton, assistant professor of engineering, Brown University stated, “Listening for the first time to the spinal circuits around the injury and then taking action in real-time with Intel’s combined AI hardware and software solutions will uncover new knowledge about the spinal cord and accelerate innovation toward new therapies.”

The intelligent spinal interface is not just an ordinary piece of scientific research rather it can potentially save and transform several lives affected by involuntary or accidental injuries. The project odes the best example and implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning in critical fields of healthcare which would eventually mark a deeper impact on humankind.