Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Batelle have successfully implanted a microchip in the brain of a quadriplegic man that allows him to use his thoughts to regain control of his hand.
Ian Burkhart, a 23-year-old man from Dublin, Ohio, was paralyzed in a car accident four years ago. He is the first of a cohort of five patients to receive the implant for testing, and eventually, FDA approval.
The microchip implanted in Burkhart’s brain is called a Neurobridge, a tiny device that’s connected to the patient’s motor center, the part of the brain that’s responsible for sending signals to activate the movement of muscles. What’s unique about this procedure is that it bypasses the network of nerves the motor center signals would normally travel along. Instead, the Neurobridge uses algorithms to calculate the movement-related brain signals Burkhart initiates in his mind, and transfers them directly to a muscle stimulation sleeve that’s wrapped around Burkhart’s forearm. These translated signals allow Burkhart to move his hand.
According to Chat Bouton, a research leader at Battelle, “It’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals. We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles.”
Although the technology still needs to be perfected, as the signals sent from Burkhart’s Neurobridge to his muscle stimulation sleeve aren’t exactly instantaneous, in time this technology will be perfected.
To see this in action, check out the demonstration video below: