UK & World News

  • 25 June 2014, 5:27

Quadriplegic Moves Hand With Brain Microchip

A paralysed man has been able to move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts thanks to a pioneering operation that implanted a microchip in his brain.

Ian Burkhart, a 23-year-old quadriplegic from Ohio, is the first patient to use Neurobridge, which is described as "an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries" that reconnects the brain directly to muscles.

Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center took almost 10 years to develop the system.

Ian said of the achievement: "Today was great. I mean to be able to open and close my hand and do those complex movements that I haven't been able to do in four years was great.

"It's definitely great for me to be as young as I am when I was injured because the advancements in science and technology are growing rapidly and they're only going to continue to increase."

Mr Burkhart was paralysed four years ago during a diving accident that left him unable to move from the chest down.

The Neurobridge technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user's brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translates neural impulses from the brain and transmits new signals to the paralysed limb.

In this case, Ian's brain signals bypass his injured spinal cord and move his hand, hence the name Neurobridge.

Once a user thinks of what they want to do, the muscles can respond within a tenth of a second.

Ali Rezai, Neurosurgeon at Ohio State University took three hours to implant the chip which is about the same size as a pea.

"The surgery required the precise implantation of the microchip sensor in the area of Ian's brain that controls his arm and hand movements," Mr Rezai said.

It is hoped this technology may one day help patients affected by various brain and spinal cord injuries such as strokes and traumatic head injury.

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