Ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time, a paralyzed man is able to move his hand and fingers via his own thoughts, due to an innovative partnership between the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle. The patient, Ian Burkhart, is a 23-year-old quadriplegic from Dublin, Ohio, and is the inaugural patient — of a potential five patients — for the new Neurobridge technological clinical study. Neurobridge is an electronic neural bypass device intended for spinal cord injuries, and it reconnects the brain directly to muscles, essentially bypassing the injured spinal cord and allows voluntary and functional control of any particular paralyzed limb
A research leader at Battelle named Chad Bouton says that the procedure is “much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals. We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles.” The Neurobridge combines various algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve, translating neural impulses from the brain to transmit brand new signals to the paralyzed limb without the spinal cord getting involved. In a nutshell, the brain signals cross a figurative bridge over the injured spinal cord directly toward the limb, hence the name Neurobridge.
It seems that the world of science fiction is really, REALLY making its way to the real world, and it can be said that this technology has been a LONNNNNNG time coming. After working on the internally-funded project for almost 10 years to develop the necessary algorithms, software and stimulation sleeve, the team of scientists at Battelle first recorded neural impulses from an electrode array implanted in a paralyzed person’s brain. The team used the collected data to illustrate the device’s effect on the patient and prove the concept.