-- Researchers in Cleveland have tested a system that decodes brain signals and transmits them to stimulators in the arm, allowing a man paralyzed from the shoulders down to regain movement in his hand and arm. The Lancet
has published the first study to look at results for this new technology, researched by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
Fifty-six-year-old Bill Kochevar of Cleveland had not used his right arm in eight years after a traumatic high spinal cord injury from a bicycle accident. In the study, he extended his arm, grasped a cup and brought it to his mouth and fed himself using a fork.
“Bill is the first patient ever who was fully paralyzed to move his fully paralyzed limb under his own control,” says Benjamin Walter, MD, Director of the UH Movement Disorders Program and Clinical Principal Investigator for the study in Cleveland. “It’s incredibly exciting. I can’t think of anything more amazing than being able to help someone who is paralyzed to be able to move again and move under their own free will, their own command, in a very natural way.”
A team of University Hospitals surgeons implanted two electrode arrays – each about the size of a baby aspirin – in the left motor cortex on the surface of the patient’s brain. The brain-computer interface (BCI) uses 96 hair-thin electrodes that sense the electromagnetic waves of neurons controlling the arm and hand. The team then implanted the 36 electrodes of the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) to animate muscles in the upper and lower arm. The BCI decodes the recorded brain signals into the intended movement command, which is then converted by the FES system into patterns of electrical pulses. These pulses trigger the muscles controlling the hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder, turning thought into action.
To prepare him to use his arm again, Kochevar first learned how to use his brain signals to move a virtual reality arm on a computer screen.
The study, published March 28th
, is the first to restore brain-controlled reaching and grasping in a person with complete paralysis. The technology, which is only for experimental use in the USA, circumvents rather than repairs spinal injuries, meaning the participant relies on the device being implanted and switched on to move.
Lead author of the study is Bolu Ajiboye, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, and senior author is Robert Kirsch, PhD, Chair of CWRU biomedical engineering, and executive director of the FES Center.
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Case Western Reserve University."