Chip implant helps paralyzed man regain hand function

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A team from Ohio has made a medical breakthrough — successfully developing technology that allows brain signals to bypass a spinal injury and transmit straight to the muscles.

The New York Times reports that when Ian Burkhart broke his neck five years ago, it damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down. Though he retained some movement in his shoulders and biceps, he lost sensation in his hands and legs.

To help him, doctors implanted a small chip the size of an eraser head into his motor cortex — the area of the brain that controls hand movements.

After the surgery, Burkhart went through multiple sessions where he had to think about specific hand movements. The signals fired off by the neurons in his brain were then recorded by the chip and sent to a computer via a port on the back of his head.

The signals are decoded, then transmitted to a receiving device studded with 130 electrodes. Burkhart wears the device around his arm like a cuff, allowing the electrodes to stimulate the muscles and make them move, according to Discovery.

The system, called NeuroLife, has allowed Burkhart to make six different hand and wrist motions, and marks the first time a paralyzed man has been able to regain movement using recorded brain signals. It is not a cure for paralysis, however, since a patient can only make movements when connected to the system.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Damaged spinal cord leads to paralysis
2. Man loses sensation in hands and legs
3. Chip implanted in the brain
4. Brain signals recorded by the chip
5. Signals transmitted to receiving device, enabling movement

VOICEOVER (in English):
“When Ian Burkhart broke his neck years ago, it damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down.”

“He retained some movement in his shoulders and biceps, but lost sensation in his hands and legs.”

“To help him, doctors inserted a chip the size of an eraser head into his motor cortex — the area of the brain that controls hand movements.”

“The chip records brain signals for specific hand movements and sends these to a computer via a port on the back of Burkhart’s head.”

“Once the signals are decoded, they’re transmitted to an arm sleeve studded with electrodes. The electrodes stimulate the muscles and allow them to move.”


SOURCES:
New York Times, Discovery, Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/health/paralysis-limb-reanimation-brain-chip.html?_r=2
http://news.discovery.com/tech/biotechnology/brain-chip-electro-sleeve-help-paralyzed-man-move-his-arm-160413.htm
http://www.reuters.com/video/2016/04/14/brain-chip-gives-paralyzed-man-control-o?videoId=368108566