Ian Burkhart, 23, recently became the first person with quadriplegia to move his wrist and hand using the power of his brain and an experimental new device called Neurobridge. According to its scientist-developers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and the Battelle Memorial Institute, the system works through “…an electronic neural bypass that reconnects the brain directly to muscles, allowing functional control of a paralyzed limb.” You can see a video of the technology that helped Ian Burkhart move his hand here.
Burkhart is the first of five potential applicants in a new clinical trial to test the device. “It’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals,” said Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle. “We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and going directly to the muscles.” The Neurobridge technology starts by implanting a tiny microchip in the brain that transmits brain activity to a specialized sleeve, which communicates movement signals to the paralyzed limb. For Burkhart, brain signals bypassed his injured spinal cord in order move his hand. “I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not able to move my arm and hand,” Burkhart says. “To be able to fulfill the hope that I will be able to again someday, really motivated me for the future and gave me a lot of hope for what life would be like.” Bouton calls this “…an important first step and a new day for those who have disabilities. It’s really a day forward.”