Ian Burkhart, paralyzed in a swimming accident, became the first person to move his own body with help from a microchip implanted in the brain. Dubbed “Neurobridge,” the technology allows the chip to read rudimentary thoughts in the patient’s brain and then trigger electrodes to stimulate muscles in the hand, causing directed motion.
From The Telegraph:
At just 0.15 inch wide, the chip has 96 electrodes which ‘read’ what he is thinking and is housed in a port inside his skull.
After weeks of practice sessions, when Mr Burkhart focused intently on wiggling his fingers while the chip responded by moving an animated hand on a computer screen, the first proper test took place last week.
The port was connected to a computer which decoded the messages sent by his brain and beamed them to a sleeve containing electrodes which was placed around his forearm.
One journalist said that when he was “plugged in” Mr Burkhart resembled Neo, the Keanu Reeves character from “The Matrix” film series.
Mr Burkhart’s first attempt at using his thoughts to move his hand exceeded all his doctors’ expectations. While they had hoped he would be able to move one finger, he was able to curl his seemingly dead hand into a fist, open it out flat and pick up a spoon.
The signals sent by the computer had triggered electrodes in the sleeve which stimulated the muscles in his hand, causing them to move in the same way they would if a message had been sent directly by the brain.
Afterwards, he told CBS: “Today was great. To be able to open and close my hand and do those complex movements that I haven’t been able to do for four years was great.
“Physically, it was a foreign feeling. Emotionally it was definitely a sense of hope and excitement to know that it’s possible.”
Dr Ali Rezai, Mr Burkhart’s surgeon, said: “I do believe there will be a day coming soon when somebody who’s got a disability – being a quadriplegic or somebody with a stroke, somebody with any kind of brain injury – can use the power of their mind and by thinking, be able to move their arms or legs.”