NIH awards $1.2M grant to project using AI to restore movement in paralyzed limbs

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.2 million grant for a project aimed at restoring voluntary movement in paralyzed limbs using AI.

The grant was awarded to Andrew Fuglevand, PhD, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Tucson. The grant funding will be used to study electrical stimulation of the muscles to restore limb movement in paralyzed individuals, according to a press release.

Fuglevand plans to use machine learning to mimic and replicate the patterns of brain activity that control groups of muscles, and implant tiny electrodes in the muscles that replay the artificially-generated signals and produce complex movements. The overall goal of the research is to restore voluntary movement for a paralyzed individual, without relying on external mechanical or robotic devices.

"Moving a finger involves as many as 20 different muscles at a time. Moving an arm can involve more than 50 different muscles. They all work together in an intricate 'dance' to produce beautifully smooth movements. Replicating how the brain naturally coordinates the activities of these muscles is extremely challenging," Fuglevand said in the release. “If successful, this approach would greatly expand the repertoire of motor behaviors available to paralyzed individuals.”