Implant Lets Paralysed Man 'Play Guitar' - Dream Health

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Friday 29 April 2016

Implant Lets Paralysed Man 'Play Guitar'


Technology Helpful to People Suffering from Paralysis Stroke/Brain Damage

Ian Burkhart, a quadriplegic from Ohio in the US can once again move his fingers after a chip had been implanted in his brain. He can now move individual fingers to play a guitar based computer game. The chip is said to read brain signals that are precisely interpreted by the computer which then tends to stimulate the muscles with electricity in restoring movements.

The researchers expect that the technology would eventually be helpful to millions of people suffering from paralysis stroke or brain damage. Ian, 24 had been seriously injured in a diving accident almost six years back and had incurred damage to his spinal cord which resulted in the left messages from his brain incapable of reaching the rest of his body.

He was paralysed below the elbows and was unable to walk. However, he is now celebrating the `big shock’ of being capable of moving his hand after going through a procedure at Ohio State University. A sensor had been implanted in his brain to read the activity of hundreds of neurons in his motor cortex which took hours of practice of teaching a sophisticated computer program on how to comprehend the myriad signals in his brain.

A Significant Moment in Utilising Computers to Avoid Spinal Cord Injuries

He also wore a stimulating sleeve with 130 electrodes with it in order to stimulate and contract different muscles in his right arm. The results had been published in the journal which showed that he could grasp and move large objects, pour the contents of a glass as well as swipe a credit card.

 Ian described the earlier session as a seven hour exam which had left him ‘completely and mentally tired and exhausted’ and had to break down each part of that motion and think about it in a more concentrated manner. For the first 19 years of his life, it had been something which he had taken it for granted. But with practice he had been learning new movements much quickly.

Ian now dreams of regaining the full function of both his hands since that enables you to be a lot independent and will not have to rely on people for the simple daily tasks. The research has marked a significant moment in the field of utilising computers to avoid spinal cord injuries.

Hope for Patients with Disabilities

The neurosurgeon, Dr Ali Rezai who had implanted the brain chip had stated that they are exhilarated that Ian had progressed considerably with this technology. He adds that this really provides hope for several patients in the future since this technology evolves and matures to help people who tend to have disabilities from spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury or stroke to permit them to be more functional and more independent.

The biggest challenge would be to turn the spectacular feats in the laboratory into something which could be utilised in the daily life. The approach needs surgery and there seems to be plenty of trailing and bulky cables. It also needs a large computer in performing the difficultprocesses to reach the brain.

Moreover, the movements of Ian are not skilful as natural movement even if they would have been unlikely, immediately after his accident. But the motor cortex tends to have millions of neurons with only a few hundreds are read by the chip. Improvement in the technology is anticipated which would be getting closer in restoring the true full function.

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