|Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/Ohio State University Wexner Med|
Read more: Bionic Breakthrough
However Battelle, a non-profit technology research organization, has come closer than anyone to bypassing this problem. Nick Annetta, an electrical engineer for the group has worked with Ian to reach a breakthrough in medical as well as manufacturing science: creating a bionic apparatus that sends brain signals to a paralyzed limb, successfully moving it.
"...doctors opened Burkhart’s skull. They crowned his head with a small metal cylinder, attached to bone by screws, and ran a wire between it and the chip they stuck like Velcro to his brain.
....The doctors knew the chip was in the right place to pick up the brain signals. The engineers knew their algorithm was translating his thoughts to movements. They believed the film strips strapped around his forearm, which they called a sleeve, would stimulate his muscles to make those movements a physical reality."
Three times a week, Burkhart would practice online with Battelle experts, concentrating on digital "drills" that were essential visualization exercises. When it became time to try the tech out, Burkhart was able to visualize his hand opening and closing and with the help of the chip in his brain and the sleeve around his forearm, was able to turn his thoughts into motion.
Technology to send electrical impulses to limbs immobilized by spinal cord injuries is rapidly expanding
These are all developments that may be down the road, but take this into account: soon after the initial experiment, Burkhart demonstrated the ability to grab a spoon and release it, without any prompt or drills required. His brain, and the computer, learned faster than anyone anticipated.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.