A paralyzed man has regained the use of his arm and hand using a system that decodes his thoughts and controls his muscles.
Bill Kochevar, regained usage of his right hand with the help of an experimental technology called a neuroprosthetic. It essentially created a new connection between the brain and limb to replace the one that was broken.
Experimental implants called BrainGate2 allowed Kochevar to grasp a cup for the first time since he suffered a major spinal cord injury in a 2006 bike accident. He was able to take a bite of mashed potatoes and eat a pretzel without help from a caregiver.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t moved my arm in about nine years,” said Kochevar, 56, a Navy veteran from Cleveland. “I thought, ‘Wow, amazing. I can move my arm again’.”
“We have been able to take the electrical signals which represent his thoughts and use that to control stimulation of his arm and hand,” said the study’s lead author Abidemi Bolu Ajiboye, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University.
“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.
The technology is far from perfected. There is a slight delay between him willing his arm to perform an action and the action taking place, but it is minuscule.
“So far, it has helped a man with tetraplegia to reach and grasp, meaning he could feed himself and drink. With further development, we believe the technology could give more accurate control, allowing a wider range of actions, which could begin to transform the lives of people living with paralysis,” Ajiboye added in the paper detailed in the The Lancet.