Researchers at Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute are reporting on an incredible achievement of having a quadriplegic man move his own arm by simply thinking about it. Ian Burkhart broke his neck in a swimming accident and ended up severely paralyzed, told that he wouldn’t be able to move his arms and legs for the rest of his life. But technology is advancing at such a pace that only a few years later he’s able to pick up object, manipulate them, and to do so naturally through pure thought like any healthy individual.
Ian had an electrode implant fitted next to his brain that records the activity within the motor control area of the organ. This data is immediately interpreted and converted into signals that are sent to an electrode array wrapped around the forearm. The electrodes are tuned to electrically stimulate the muscles similar to how the muscles would be activated naturally, resulting in a high level of control for the patient.
The researchers have published a paper in Nature detailing the technology and how they got it to work as well as it does, providing other scientists with clinicians with much needed info to push forward toward a time when spinal cord injury is not an automatic sentence to life long paralysis.
Here’s video with Ian showing off his new abilities and the scientists describing their work: