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29 Mar, 2017 11:21

Brain power: Paralyzed man uses thoughts to move arm & hands (VIDEO)

Brain power: Paralyzed man uses thoughts to move arm & hands (VIDEO)

A paralyzed man has been given the ability to move his arm by simply thinking. Described as “breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community," this has come about thanks to a technology 10 years in the making.

Bill Kochevar was paralyzed in a bicycle accident eight years ago and was unable to move any part of his body beneath his shoulders. The accident damaged his spine, meaning signals from his brain were unable to reach his muscles to make them move.

The 56-year-old can now grip and hold objects, and even scratch his nose, thanks to an experimental BrainGate2 study that has created connections between Kochevar’s brain and his right arm.

In a clinical trial at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, electrode arrays were implanted in the motor cortex of Kochevar’s brain, which can detect signals coming from the part of the brain used to control arm movement.

After four months of practice sending brain signals to move a virtual reality arm on a computer, 36 electrodes were implanted in Kochevar’s arm and hands muscles.

The system is able to detect what movements Kochevar wants to make, and then stimulate his arm muscles to make the movement.

"We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make," said Robert Kirsch, a Case Western biomedical engineering professor. "We can actually record signals from his brain, determine what he's trying to do and make that happen.”

"I thought about moving my arm and I could move it," said Kochevar. "I ate a pretzel, I drank water. It really got good.”

Scientists hope that the technology will eventually become a routine treatment for people with paralysis, and that it will become more and more accurate and wide ranging.

“Our research is at an early stage, but we believe that this neuroprosthesis could offer individuals with paralysis the possibility of regaining arm and hand functions to perform day-to-day activities, offering them greater independence,” Dr Bolu Ajiboye, lead author of the study said.