USA – How a Brain-Computer Interface Could Help Paralyzed Veterans at Home

Over the course of a five-year study, a paralyzed man was able to regain conscious control of his hand, wrist, and fingers by using a brain-computer interface technology from Battelle called NeuroLife. MD+DI spoke with NeuroLife researchers to find out what they learned during the study and what is next for this game-changing technology.

Ten years ago, an athletic college student from Dublin, Ohio was on vacation with his friends when he dove into a wave, hit the top of his head on a sandbar, and was instantly paralyzed. That young man was Ian Burkhart, the first participant in a five-year study of Battelle’s NeuroLife neural bypass technology, a project Battelle has worked on in conjunction with doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Burkhart completed NeuroLife sessions two to three times a week for five years.

The proof of concept of direct neural interface technology has only emerged in the last 20 years to show that a human can have sensors placed in or on their brain that are designed to pick up signals, such as the person’s intent to move, which can be sent to any number of devices, explained Justin Sanchez, a life sciences research technical fellow at Battelle.

« In the case of the work that we’ve been doing here at Battelle, it’s been to try to reanimate a paralyzed limb, » Sanchez told MD+DI. « So you can imagine if a person is living with a spinal cord injury and they lose the ability to move their limbs, I mean this is devastating. So things like neural technology can be a groundbreaking, transformative technology that can help them to reanimate their limb. »

In other words, Battelle has shown in its study with Burkhart, that it is possible for a paralyzed patient to move their hands and fingers just by thinking about it…