Various experimental technologies have been tested with the hope of helping paralyzed patients regain control of their limbs. As study, published in Nature, is the first to report success. The Verge reported:
Ian Burkhard was a college freshman about six years ago when he was swimming at a North Carolina beach. He dove into a wave, and what reports are calling a “freakish accident” resulted in him breaking his neck on the sandy ocean floor and loosing feeling of his hands and legs.
Meanwhile, researchers started developing a computer chip that would be implanted in the brain. “During the last decade, we’ve learned how to decipher brain signals in patients who are completely paralyzed and now, for the first time, those thoughts are being turned into movement,” said study co-author Bouton, who directed Battelle’s team before he joined the New York-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, in a press release. “Our findings show that signals recorded from within the brain can be re-routed around an injury to the spinal cord, allowing restoration of functional movement and even movement of individual fingers.”
The chip translates thoughts into movement directions, which are communicated to a computer sleeve on his arm which relays information to the hand muscles. “It’s crazy because I had lost sensation in my hands, and I had to watch my hand to know whether I was squeezing or extending the fingers,” the now 24-year-old told the New York Times.