Researchers from Battelle and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center recently published a study describing a quadriplegic patient’s ability to smoothly control movement and muscle contraction using the NeuroLife Neural Bypass Technology.

The study appears in Scientific Reports, a Nature publication.

“Enabling users to precisely grade their muscle contractions expands the possible uses of the NeuroLife technology and opens the door for handling delicate objects,” says David Friedenberg, lead author of the paper and head of the Battelle’s NeuroLife Algorithms team, in a media release from Battelle.

The NeuroLife technology was invented at Battelle. In 2013, the study’s first participant—Ian Burkhart, a quadriplegic paralyzed in a diving accident in 2010—was implanted with a tiny chip known as a Utah Array, manufactured by Blackrock Microsystems, into the left motor cortex of Burkhart’s brain. It serves as a listening device that captures neural activity in the part of Burkhart’s brain that governs hand movements, per the release.

In 2014, Burkhart first demonstrated the ability to open and close his formerly paralyzed hand by thinking about it.

Since then, Burkhart’s abilities have increased to the point that he is now able to perform many functional tasks such as swiping a credit card and playing video games. However, he hasn’t been able to modulate the amount of force exerted by his muscles.

Now, he and the NeuroLife team are proving that the next step toward functional control is achievable, the release continues.

“Over that past 3 years, Ian has dramatically improved from initial rough movements of simple opening and closing of his hands, to much more fluid, sophisticated and precise movements of individual fingers,” says Dr Ali Rezai from Ohio State University, who implanted the chip in Burkhart’s brain in 2013.

“Ian is also able to perform dynamic movements with grasping and manipulating objects of different sizes and shapes with gradations in the force of his grip. This study demonstrates the significant potential and capabilities of brain computer interface technology to improve function and help patients with disabilities,” he adds.

[Source(s): Battelle, Business Wire]