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Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to Move his Hand

Update Date: Jun 25, 2014 11:31 AM EDT
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Breakthroughs in technology have allowed people to do more today than they have ever done before. According to researchers, for the first time ever, a 23-year-old paralyzed man was able to move his fingers and hand with his thoughts. The patient, Ian Burkhart from Dublin, OH, received a brain chip created by the partnership between The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle that reconnected his brain to his muscles.

In this experimental study, researchers tried out Neurobridge on Burkhart, who is the first of five participants involved in the trial. Burkhart, who was paralyzed after a diving incident, received an electronic neural bypass designed specifically for spinal cord injuries. The bypass worked by connecting Burkhart's brain to his muscles, which restored his ability to voluntarily move his paralyzed hand.

"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 reported by Medical Xpress. "We're taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles."

Dr. Jerry Mysiw, medical director of Rehabilitation Services at Wexner, added according to FOX News, "Other devices use electrical stimulation, but they are not responsive to the individual. I think we've demonstrated this is another milestone in the evolution of human-machine interface technology."

In order for Neurobridge to work, the scientists had to implant the computer chip into a very specific region of Burkhart's brain. Once the location was pinpointed with the help of an fMRI machine, the team inserted the pea-size chip during a three-hour long surgery. Inside the brain, the chip is capable of reading brain signals that get sent to a sleeve on Burkhart's paralyzed limb. The sleeve, which is made with almost 200 electrodes, reads the signals and stimulates the muscles to move.

Dr. Ali Rezai, Burkhart's surgeon stated according to CBS News, "I do believe there will be a day coming soon when somebody who's got a disability -- being a quadriplegic or somebody with a stroke, somebody with any kind of brain injury -- can use the power of their mind and by thinking, be able to move their arms or legs."

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