Experimental Computer Chip Restores Hand Movement in Quadriplegia

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Technology bypasses damaged spinal cord to help patient move fingers, hand, and wrist
Technology bypasses damaged spinal cord to help patient move fingers, hand, and wrist

HealthDay News — A patient with quadriplegia has regained some use of his fingers, hand, and wrist via use of an experimental technology, according to a letter published online April 13 in Nature.

Doctors in 2014 implanted a computer chip in the patient's motor cortex, researcher Gaurav Sharma, PhD, of the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, told HealthDay. "By recording signals from the motor cortex, interpreting and transmitting signals by computer directly to the paralyzed hand muscles, we bypass the damaged spinal cord," he said.

The patient attended up to 3 sessions a week for 15 months after the chip was implanted. The system enabled him to make isolated finger movements and 6 different wrist and hand motions, allowing him to grasp, manipulate, and release objects, Sharma said. The technology is still in its early stage, but the researchers hope it might one day help patients with quadriplegia use their limbs.

"It is conceivable that this technology could be used to link brain activity to stimulate leg muscles to help people with lower limb paralysis," according to Sharma. However, the current system is only usable in a controlled laboratory environment. "Our next goal is to build upon our experience from this study to develop a system that is not only portable, but also something that a patient can take home to assist with their activities of daily living or rehabilitation," Sharma added.

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