Ian Burkhart was paralyzed from the chest down after a swimming accident, but recently became the first person to move his hand again with the help of a microchip and the power of thought.
Non-profit research center Battelle worked alongside doctors at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Battelle created the "neurobridge" technology, which allows microchips to read the thoughts of patients to replace the signals the body no longer transmits.
Doctors implanted the chip in Burkhart's brain in April. The minuscule chip has 96 electrodes that read what he is thinking.
Burkhart, 23, spent weeks in practice sessions, concentrating on wiggling his fingers, while the chip responded by moving an animated hand on a computer screen. During the first real test with his newly implanted microchip, he opened and closed his fist, and was able to pick up a spoon.
A port connected to a computer, which decoded the signals sent by his brain, and sent them through a sleeve with electrodes around his forearm. The electrodes stimulated the muscles in Burkhart's hand, which forced them to move in the same way they would of the signals were transmitted naturally from the brain.
"Today was great. To be able to open and close my hand and do those complex movements that I haven't been able to do for four years was great," Burkhart said. “Physically, it was a foreign feeling. Emotionally it was definitely a sense of hope and excitement to know that it's possible."
Burkhart's surgeon Dr. Ali Rezai added: "I do believe there will be a day coming soon when somebody who's got a disability – being a quadriplegic or somebody with a stroke, somebody with any kind of brain injury – can use the power of their mind and by thinking, be able to move their arms or legs.”
Watch Burkhart move his hand for the first time in four years in the video below.