So, someone tells you there exists a brain chip that would make a paralyzed person regain his mobility… what would you say? Well, you might think that this someone has lost his marbles, or that he seems really affected by Felicity Smoke’s recovery in the latest episodes of Arrow. However, you’d be misinformed if you thought that microchip implants still only existed in sci-fi shows, and Ian Burkhart is a living, breathing, and moving example of that.
Ian Burkhart, 24, has been paralyzed for the last 5 years, after he dove into shallow waters. He is what science would call a quadriplegic. However, Burkhart has recently regained partial use of his right hand due to a microchip implant in his brain. He has been part of a study by the Ohio State University for the past 2 years. For the first time ever, this study uses electronic sensors to send signals from the brain to the muscles, which has allowed Burkhart to hold or pour a bottle, pick up a stick, and even play Guitar Hero.
According to the Newsweek, the neurosurgeon and co-author of the study, Ali Rezai, thinks this technology will give quadriplegic patients much needed hope in the possibility that they can improve their motor functions and hand movements. The process includes a surgery to implant the flexible chip into the patient’s brain. This chip detects electrical activity in the brain when the person thinks of moving their hand. Then, the chip sends signals to a computer, which in turn transmits electrical pulses that stimulate the muscle.
The scientists on the study hope that this technology will be evolved into a wireless system that directly connects to the brain’s signals. This would greatly improve the function and quality of life of paralyzed people and those with disabilities. They also hope that this technology would soon enough be available for patients to use from their own homes.