Myo-electric signals acquired from the brain has enabled a number of patients to control limbs but those limbs were artificial. However, recently a paralyzed 23-year-old American guy managed to move his fingers using his brain and all this has been achieved by a microchip that was installed in his brain. Ian Burkhart became a quadriplegic when he dived onto a sandbank on a beach, by mistake.
The microchip has been installed in the part of the brain that controls the movement of arms and hands. The operation was performed in April and Ian was disallowed to concentrate on anything and therefore, TV and movies were banned. He also suffered severe headaches after the operation. But all the pain and hard work paid off when he moved his fingers again.
The microchip that has been installed measures in at 0.15 inches in width and comes with 96 electrodes that are capable of acquiring brain signals. This microchip was installed into a port in the skull and was then connected via a conventional computer lead to a computer. The electrodes then deciphered the message that was being sent by Ian’s mind and the computer translated the message into commands that were then relayed to the ‘sleeve’, which was wrapped around his forearms and stimulated the muscles in his hand. This resulted in the movement of his fingers after 1/10th of a second he ordered it.
This breakthrough has been achieved by collaborative efforts between surgeons and spinal specialists from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and a team of engineers from Battelle. Battelle is a non-profit engineering company also responsible for manufacturing Neurobridge, which employed microchip technology to come up with a virtual spinal cord.
In words of Ian Burkhart; ‘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.’