For the First Time Ever, a Man With Paralysis Can Move His Hands

National   |   Conor Beck   |   Apr 18, 2016   |   9:46AM   |   Washington, DC

In a major development for people living with paralysis, for the first time a person with it can move his hand.

Mashable reports on the technology as the product of a decade’s work between experts of neurology, physiology, and engineering. The first person to use it is 24-year-old Ian Burkhart.

Burkhart lost feeling in his legs and hands in a freak accident diving into a wave five years ago, according to The Bulletin. After his injury, he suspected that there may be new technology that could help improve his quality of life. As it turned out, a team of researchers from Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute were looking for a participant to test a system they were developing. Burkhart met the requirements.

“I kind of felt it was my social obligation to be a part of it,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart had a chip implanted in his brain two years ago, which let him eventually learn how to pour from a bottle and stir a straw, among other physical activities, according to the report.

“It’s crazy because I had lost sensation in my hands, and I had to watch my hand to know whether I was squeezing or extending the fingers,” he said.

The new technology consists of: “A tiny chip in the brain that receives brain signals via a microelectrode array; a computer algorithm that decodes (and later recodes) the signals; and a special sleeve, equipped with dozens of electrodes, that wraps around Burkhart’s arm and stimulates the muscles,” according to Mashable.



The recent advancements are no cure for paralysis, however. Burkhart could only use his hand when connected to computers in a lab. The system’s current development is still in the making, but Burkart is optimistic.

“The more and more attention that any of this type of research can get is a win for humanity because it’s definitely a big problem that needs to be solved,” he said. “And if we don’t do anything about it, then nothing’s going to happen.”