Cutting edge neuro-bypass technology in the US has helped a 24 year old man regain control over his right hand and fingers despite having suffered a spinal cord injury which left him paralysed from the waist down.

Five years ago Mr Ian Burkhart broke his neck in a freak accident when he dived into a wave in North Carolina, US suffering a severe C5 fracture. Mr Burkhart underwent rehabilitation and advised medical doctors that he was willing to participate in experimental clinical trials and treatments. Doctors subsequently implanted a chip in Mr Burkhart’s brain to isolate the parts of the brain that controls hand movements, the area on the left hand side of the brain known as the motor-cortex. Mr Burkhart after recovering from brain surgery subsequently underwent a period of arduous and exhaustive training to learn different type of hand movements via an avatar like character on a computer screen.

Through repetition and learning, Mr Burkhart was able to make hand movements for the first time on his own using the technology such as opening and closing his hand, picking up a bottle and pouring the contents, holding a phone to his ear, stirring a cup, swiping a credit card and playing the video game guitar hero.

The improvements were so significant that rehabilitation specialists reclassified Mr Burkhart’s disability from a severe C5 function to a less severe C5 designation. Doctors, whilst obviously pleased with the results, advised that a lot more needs to be done to make the technology more practical, affordable and less invasive, most likely through wireless technology in the future.

Chad Bouton, who helped create the device, said the study marked the first time a person living with paralysis had regained movement using signals recorded from within the brain. “We think this is an important result as we try and pave the way for other patients in the future, not only those with spinal injuries, but also those who have experienced a stroke and potentially even traumatic brain injury”. Over time in the future, it is hoped that the technology would seek to transform the lives of people robbed of their independence by devastating spinal injuries.

Ronan Hynes
Ronan Hynes

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Should you require more information on spinal injuries or if you or a loved one have been affected by or suffered a spinal injury, please contact Ronan Hynes, partner at Keating Connolly Sellors, for expert legal advice on 061-414355 or rhynes@sellors.ie.

 

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