When you want to move, your brain tells your body how to do so. The body has many parts, and even moving your arm from one point to another is hard. It is one of the hardest problems that your brain deals with.
We try to figure out how the brain moves the body. The brain is made up of many, many cells that talk to each other. They do this by firing more or less to tell other cells to fire more or less. Some cells in the brain have parts that leave, and these cells can move the arms and legs and the rest of the body. We listen to the firing of some (but not even close to all of!) the cells in this part of the brain, and try to make sense of how the firing changes when you move in different ways. In this way, we can start to understand how the brain controls the body, and maybe learn something about how the brain does all kinds of other things as well.
Some people have become sick or hurt in such a way that they can’t move their bodies anymore. These people have trouble living because they can’t move around or reach for anything, so they must ask their friends and family to help them with everything. We are also trying to use what we have learned about the brain to help these people. First, a doctor in a hospital can very carefully put a small thing that looks like a hair brush inside the space between the head and the brain. This listens to the firing of the cells in that small part of the brain and sends what it hears outside to a computer. Then, we have the computer learn what kinds of firing happen when the person makes each kind of reach in many directions. Then, when the person is trying to make a reach, the computer can recognize what reach the person wants to make just by listening to the cells inside the brain. Before, when the person thought about moving, nothing would happen. But now, the computer knows how the person wants to move and can move the arm for them!
It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s good enough already that we can soon help people that can’t move by themselves with their day to day problems. And it’s getting better every day. It’s very exciting to learn about the brain and help people at the same time!”