NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– Could an injured person be able to move their paralyzed hand with an implanted microchip in the brain, using just their thoughts?
It may sound like science fiction, but it’s actually happening, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
Lots of college-age students spend hours playing Guitar Hero, but the fact that Ian Burkhart is doing it is nothing short of incredible. He was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident in 2010 and couldn’t move a finger afterward.
“And now, it’s just something that’s so fluid it’s just kind of like it was before I had my injury, where I just think about what I want to do and now I can do it,” Burkhart said.
Burkart made international headlines in 2014 after becoming the first paralyzed patient to move his hand using his own thoughts. That day, he simply picked up a spoon.
Today, he’s not only playing video games, but pouring objects from a cup and swiping credit cards. It’s all made possible with the aid of a computer chip that Ian controls in his brain.
“Several years after a spinal cord injury his level of function has improved significantly so that he is able to have more use of his fingers and hands to do functional tasks,” Dr. Ali Rezai, of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told CBS2.
In 2014, Rezai implanted the computer chip in Burkhart’s brain. The chip is connected to wires that come from Burkhart’s head and are hooked to a sleeve to create a nervous system bypass around his severed spinal cord.
Computers read his thoughts, decode them, and send messages to the sleeve to move his muscles. Amazingly, the more Burkhart and the computer work together, the more they learn to listen to each other.
“This is possible, you can take someone, a human being who is paralyzed and give them the ability to use that paralyzed limb again in a functional way,” Nick Annetta said.
“I always knew maybe someday something would happen, but now I know for sure that something actually is happening,” Burkhart said.
Two more patients will receive brain chips as part of the study. Eventually, they hope to develop wireless technology so they won’t need to be hooked to a cable. The technology could also be used to help paralyzed stroke patients.
The study was published in the journal Nature.