Brainwave Chip Helps Paralyzed Man Move Arms

A computer chip in the brain of Ian Burkhart reads his thoughts, decodes them after that sends signals to a sleeve on his arms, which lets him move his hand.

The objective of restoring movement to victims of brain injury, paralysis or stroke, has consumed medical scientists for the past century. Lately, they have deployed various electronic devices to make a “brain-computer interface”, which might harness the power of brainwaves to move muscles or even other objects.

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A team of researchers states they made another step toward that goal by recording and interpreting brain signals to bypass a spinal cord injury and enable a 24-year-old man to move his hand once more.

“This research marks the first time that an individual suffering from paralysis has regained movement with recorded signals from the brain,” stated Chad Bouton, division head at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. “It is a vital route for other patients later in life. For traumatic brain and stroke and spinal cord injury patients, this will help.”

Chad and co-workers from Batelle Research and Ohio State University report in the journal Nature on an experiment where they implanted a tiny chip in a portion of the brain known as the motor cortex of a paraplegic male patient.

The chip recorded a few of the electronic brain signals, which were initialized when the sufferer, Ian Burkhardt, was shown pictures of different hand movements, processing over 3 gigabytes of information each minute. It used machine-learning algorithms to interpret and send the signals to an electro-stimulation gadget worn on Ian’s forearm. This system permitted him to make six different hand and wrist movements, which include lifting a bottle and making use of a stick to stir the contents of a jar.

Ian is only able to move his arm while attached to the device inside the laboratory at Ohio State. And he has a microchip implanted into his brain; a chip that the scientists stated will degrade as time passes and may get contaminated or rejected by the body. Still, Ian hopes that he may eventually leave the lab with working limbs. He states the electro-stimulation device that is essentially a series of electrodes and wires connected to his skin, is simpler to put on compared to a cumbersome prosthetic.

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