First time in medical history, researcher restored cortical control in a quadriplegic man

neurolife device

Human brain is an incredible coding machine that runs the entire life process. Scientists, after decades of advance research in neurology combined with engineering and electronics, have finally established a milestone. According to a study published in Nature today, for the first time in the history of medical sciences, researcher successfully developed a device called NeuroLife. First of its kind, actually bypassed the damaged spinal cord in 24-years-old quadriplegic Ohio man, Ian Burkhart, and allowed him to move his fingers to play a video game. Finally, medical scientists can hope to regain movement in people suffering with paralysis.

NeuroLife allows the brain to communicate directly with muscles in paralysed limbs using a small, eraser sized chip implant, computer, and array of cathodes wrapped around affected limb, which was wrist in Burkhart’s case.

As the researchers from Ohio State and Battelle Memorial Institute explains in their study,

In this study, we intracortically recorded signals can be linked in real-time to muscle activation to restore movement in a paralysed human. We used a chronically implanted intracortical microelectrode array to record multiunit activity from the motor cortex in a study participant with quadriplegia from cervical spinal cord injury. We applied machine-learning algorithms to decode the neuronal activity and control activation of the participant’s forearm muscles through a custom-built high-resolution neuromuscular electrical stimulation system.

The implanted chip features complex algorithms that can learn and decode thoughts and neural signals associated with muscle control. The instructions are transmitted to the muscles through a special sleeve worn by the patient. Sleeve consists of array of electrodes and can transmit the signal in less than a tenth of a second. The incorporated sensors in the sleeve stimulate the muscle through electric currents, which allow the patient to perform a movement as he does it in thoughts.

Burkhart was paralysed from shoulder down for the past six years after a diving event went wrong and he ended up with critical spinal cord injuries. Researchers spent years studying his brain and had implanted the chip after three surgical procedures back in 2014.

Now, after two years, Burkhart has really improved and is able to perform grasping function with fingers, pick up a spoon, still a drink with it, or play a game that is similar to ‘Guitar Hero’.

The technology isn’t available for other patients yet, but the researchers are leaving no stone unturned to extend their incredible innovation to millions of quadriplegic people.

Source: Science Alert



Madan has been writing about eco-friendly gadgets and technologies for over 5 years now. He has an inclination for all things green and wonderful. He is a local social activist with a global vision. When not writing, Madan can be seen capturing the best of urban wildlife in his DSLR lens.

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