A paralyzed man implanted with a thought-reading microchip has regained the ability to move his fingers and hand using only his own thoughts.“I never dreamed I would ever be able to do that again,” said Ian Burkhart after moving his paralyzed hand by using his thoughts. Burkhart, a 23-year old patient from Brooklyn was injured in a 2010 diving accident.
The breakthrough was made possible by a cutting-edge technology called Neurobridge.
The implanted chip, developed through a partnership between the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute, works by activating a sleeve to move a paralysis patient’s hand.
The technology uses a specialized sleeve on the forearm to communicate with the chip implanted in Burkhart`s brain. The chip processes the patient`s thoughts, then bypasses the spinal cord, sending signals directly to the sleeve to produce movement. Within a tenth of a second, Burkhart’s thoughts are translated into action.
“We implanted a microchip sensor in Ian’s brain that will essentially read his thoughts and send signals to a wearable high-tech sleeve placed on his forearm to control his muscle movements,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Rezai of Ohio State.
During a three-hour surgery on April 22, Rezai implanted a chip smaller than a pea onto the motor cortex of Burkhart’s brain. The tiny chip interprets brain signals and sends them to a computer, which recodes and sends them to the high-definition electrode stimulation sleeve that stimulates the proper muscles to execute his desired movements. Within a tenth of a second, Burkhart’s thoughts are translated into action.
“The surgery required the precise implantation of the micro-chip sensor in the area of Ian’s brain that controls his arm and hand movements,” Rezai said.
“It’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals,” said Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle. “We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles.”
This technology may one day help patients affected by various brain and spinal cord injuries such as strokes and traumatic brain injury, Rezai added.