Chip, Implanted in Brain, Helps Paralyzed Man Regain Control of Hand

Story excerpt provided by The New York Times.

Written by Benedict Carey.

Five years ago, a college freshman named Ian Burkhart dived into a wave at a beach off the Outer Banks in North Carolina and, in a freakish accident, broke his neck on the sandy floor, permanently losing the feeling in his hands and legs.

On Wednesday, doctors reported that Mr. Burkhart, 24, had regained control over his right hand and fingers, using technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles and bypasses his spinal injury. The doctors’ study, published by the journal Nature, is the first account of limb reanimation, as it is known, in a person with quadriplegia…

…So in 2014, a surgical team at Ohio State operated. They used brain imaging to isolate the part of Mr. Burkhart’s brain that controls hand movements. The area is in what is known as the motor cortex, on the left side of his brain and just above the ear. During the surgery, the team did extensive testing on the exposed brain tissue to further narrow down the location.

“We spent an hour and half working to find the exact location,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, the surgeon and director of Ohio State’s Center for Neuromodulation. Dr. Rezai implanted a chip the size of an eraser head in the area. The chip holds 96 filament-like “microelectrodes” that record the firing of individual neurons…

…Scientists at Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit organization in Columbus, Ohio, that develops medical devices, among other instruments, designed software to decode those firing patterns. And that code had to be recalibrated almost every session, said Herbert Bresler, a senior research leader at Battelle…

Click here to read the complete article and see related study in Nature.

Originally published April 13, 2016.

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