Surgeons Implant Computer Chip to Let Paralyzed Man Move Hand

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 07:33 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Neurosurgeons at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center working with computer engineers from Battelle hope a chip implanted in a patient's brain will allow him to control a paralyzed hand with his thoughts,  The Washington Post reported.

Engineer Chad Bouton and his team— who work for the applied science company Battelle— developed algorithms for the electrode-studded four millimeter-wide chip. Surgeon Ali Rezai inserted it into the brain of the twenty-something year-old patient. The man is paralyzed from below the chest
It took a while for surgeons to find the precise spot in the brain for the chip's placement. A wire from the chip through the skull will eventually be connected to a computer. The limited goal of the procedure is to enable the patient to circumvent his broken spinal cord in order to wiggle his finger using his mind.

The immediate concern was making sure that the patient survived the surgery.

Now that the operation is over, doctors, engineers, and the young patient will have to wait to see if the procedure worked.

The technique is called Neurobridge. Bouton's algorithms aim to mirror what brain waves do when the mind thinks about movements.

The implanted chip is connected with a wire to a transmitter port at the skull. A cable at the port carries data from the brain chip to a computer. Bouton's algorithm will interpret the brain's command. The computer is attached to a "sleeve" wrapped around the patient's arm. It stimulates muscle fibers intended to trigger the action the patient is thinking of.

If the chip works, it will be the first time a paralyzed patient was able to use their own thoughts to control a limb.

In late May, the patient well be plugged into the computer. Afterward, his arm will be placed in the custom made electronic sleeve. Then engineers and doctors will watch for movement.
If the patient's brain can signal his finger to move the operation will have been a success. With further development, the technique could also benefit stroke victims.

Other approaches to help paralyzed patients include stem cells research and transmitting electric currents into the spinal cord, according to the Post.

Related Stories:

Feds Appeal Order Blocking Stem Cell Research

Spinal Cord Stimulator Moves Limbs That Were Paralyzed for Years

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