From wheelchairs built like tanks to motorized exoskeletons, people who are paralyzed are gaining more and more ways to start moving on their own again. To add to this growth, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle have partnered to create a device that lets people who are paralyzed move in a different way than ever before.
For the first time, those who are paralyzed can move by using their thoughts.
According to a press release, “Ian Burkhart, a 23-year-old quadriplegic from Dublin, Ohio, is the first patient to use Neurobridge, an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries that reconnects the brain directly to muscles, allowing voluntary and functional control of a paralyzed limb. Burkhart (pictured at right wearing the new device) is the first of a potential five participants in a clinical study.”
The system works by first implanting a chip in the brain which reads the patient’s thoughts. Those thoughts are then transferred to a high definition electrode stimulation sleeve the patient wears to produce movement within a tenth of a second.
Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle said this new system is like a heart bypass, but they’re bypassing electrical signals instead of blood. He said, “We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles.”
According to the release, “The Ohio State and Battelle teams worked together to figure out the correct sequence of electrodes to stimulate to allow Burkhart to move his fingers and hand functionally….As part of the study, Burkhart worked for months using the electrode sleeve to stimulate his forearm to rebuild his atrophied muscles so they would be more responsive to the electric stimulation.”
Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State, Doctor Jerry Mysiew, said in the release, “Now we’re examining human-machine interfaces and interactions, and how that type of technology can help.”