Researchers at Battelle and Ohio State University‘s Wexner Medical Center are developing a neuroprosthetic device that can help paralyzed patients regain partial control of their extremities. By implanting an intracortical microelectrode array into the patient’s brain, scientists can decode electrical signals for movement via machine-learning algorithms and transfer that information to muscle stimulators wrapped around the forearm.
Ian Burkhart, the first of five (potential) patients to participate in this study, had a pea-sized implant inserted in his motor cortex in April of 2014. In early experiments, he was able to open and close his hands. The research has now progressed enough that he is able to perform more complex tasks like swiping a credit card, picking up a phone, and even playing Guitar Hero.
Scientists have already made great progress in connecting the electrical impulses of thought to prosthetic devices used by amputees, but this is some of the first and most successful research to bypass the neural pathways and restore some movement to a patient’s own limbs.