A study was conducted to help people who have become disabled due to accidents. Ian Burkhart, 28, was almost completely paralyzed after his injury in 2010 and is now one of the first patients to show hope.
The research discovered technology that uses a new system of combining brain implants with software. This technology functions to read signals to restore movement and sense of touch.
As Syfy Wire reports launching the New York Post, Burkhart’s progress is the subject of a new paper published in the Journal Cell, United States. These findings could change the way doctors treat patients who are paralyzed.
Spinal cord injury can shut down motor function and sensory input to the affected limb. Researchers at the Battelle Memorial Institute are developing a new type of system for dealing with these tragic cases starting with brain implants.
“This system works by picking up very light signals that persist between the brain and muscles that are paralyzed even after a traumatic injury,” the New York Post quoted him as saying.
While strong, easily detectable sensory signals are cut off when a person is paralyzed, some of the much lighter signals that facilitate the sense of touch can still function.
Strengthens Weak Signals in the Brain
Using a new technique, the researchers amplified those cryptic signals so they could be picked up by the brain. The system captures signal activity via a brain implant and acts as an intermediary to translate the signal into impulses which are routed to the patient’s arm via a series of ribbons.
Simply put, the signal received and sent from Burkhart’s brain gets some extra computer processing along the way, resulting in a closed loop in which the patient can move and feel.
Senior Research Scientist researcher Gaurav Sharma said the changes were so dramatic that patients could grasp items and even play dexterity-dependent games such as Guitar Hero.
The challenge for researchers is to further refine the hardware and software used. In the end, returning a person who was paralyzed to a more normal lifestyle was the end goal.