Thanks to new technology, a paralyzed man was able to move his hand with his own thoughts for the first time in four years.
Ian Burkhart was paralyzed four years ago in a diving accident. He was the first of five subjects to test the new Neurobridge system.
"The 23-year-old quadriplegic said he didn't mind being a guinea pig of a pioneering research program. But he never dreamed he'd be able to do this." (Via Sky News)
Neurobridge is an electronic neural bypass developed by surgeons from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and Battelle, a nonprofit group in Ohio focusing on spinal cord technology.
Engadget describes Neurobridge as a chip "that's been implanted into the patient's motor center, which relays those signals, via a muscle stimulation sleeve, directly to the subject's muscles. That way, the technology bypasses the damaged nerves, essentially cutting out the middleman and restoring direct muscular control to the brain."
Burkhart underwent surgery in April to implant a 0.15-inch-wide chip into his brain, which has 96 electrodes that "read" what he is thinking. He then had weeks of practice sessions where he focused on moving his fingers to move a digital hand on a computer. (Via International Business Times)
The chip can deliver signals in about a tenth of a second, so it's not as fast as the natural biological process. But it could still help those that are paralyzed lead normal lives.
"Picking up a cup of water and drinking it or brushing your teeth or feeding yourself, you know those things. If you can do those on your own, it makes a big difference in your life." (Via The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)
According to Mayo Clinic, quadriplegia can stem from "a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae."
Ian's surgeon believes that a day will come when those with disabilities will be able to move their arms and legs with the use of technology.