Researchers confirm first 'reanimated' limb using implanted technology

Dive Brief:

  • On Wednesday, the journal Nature confirmed a quadriplegic man, with the help of implanted technology, has regained some movement in his right arm.
  • A flexible microchip -- which sends brain signals to muscles -- was implanted in the man's brain two years ago.
  • This is the first account of a paralyzed person "reanimating" a limb after using such technology.

Dive Insight:

At age 19, Ian Burkhart broke his neck paralyzing him from the shoulders down after a diving accident at a beach. Two years ago, researchers, led by Chad Bouton currently at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, implanted Burkhart with a microchip that picks up electrical activity from Burkhart's brain as he thinks about moving his hand.

Through cables relays, the chip then sends the activity to a computer -- using algorithms -- that translates the signal into electrical messages. These messages are sent to a sleeve wrapped about Burkhart's right forearm and invigorates his muscles.

Burkhart attends training session up to three times a week, the journal noted.

The discovery is a huge breakthrough for neuroscience research. The study found by using "a nerve bypass," a person can potentially regain basic motor skills for limbs.

"Previous studies have suggested that after spinal-cord injuries, the brain undergoes 'reorganization' — a rewiring of its connections," Nature noted. "But this new work suggests that the degree of reorganization occurring after such injuries may be less than previously assumed."

While the research is a major breakthrough, the implantable technology has to be recaliberated at the start of each training session.

Here's a video on the research:


Follow on Twitter

Filed Under: Health IT
Top image credit: Pixabay