Through a partnership between Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and Battelle, those who are paralyzed may walked again thanks to a device called the Neurobridge.
The Neurobridge is a new device which bypasses the brain to directly control the muscles of a patient, allowing for voluntary and functional control of a paralyzed limb. According to Chad Bouton, research leader at Batelle, “it’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals.”
The Neurobridge technology incorporates a number of algorithms that decode and learn a patient’s brain activity, and then transmits it to a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve. This sleeve then transmits the signals to the paralyzed limb, letting it move again. In the demo they showed in the video below, it allowed a man named Ian to bypass his injured spinal cord and move his hand freely.
In the making for a decade, this internally-funded project has developed the algorithms, software, and stimulation sleeve by themselves. It was only two years ago that Bouton and his team reached out to Ohio State to design clinical trials to help validate the feasibility of using the Neurobridge with patients.
By implanting a small microchip, that’s just a bit smaller than a pea, onto the motor cortex of a patient’s brain, it allows signals to be sent to a computer for decoding. Once decoded, they are re-encoded and passed to the stimulation sleeve, which then prompts the muscles to respond accordingly. This process takes roughly a tenth of a second to complete.
So far, the research team has found the correct electrode sequences to allow their patient Ian to gain control of his hand, and hope to do more as the trail progresses. With the rapid growth of technology, hopefully these human-machine interfaces will allow the disabled to completely gain back the lives they lost in accidents.
Image: The Ohio State University