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Paralysed man can now use his hand thanks to pioneering software

Ian Burkhart was left with a broken neck after a swimming accident.

Source: nature video/YouTube

IAN BURKHART (24) was left paralysed by a spinal cord injury after breaking his neck while swimming on a family holiday.

But thanks to pioneering software, he has regained some use of his right hand, controlling it with signals relayed from electronic sensors in his brain.

The details of Burkhart’s remarkable situation were revealed in the journal Nature today.

Scientists at Ohio State University implanted a chip into the motor area of Burkhart’s brain, with a connector in the skull.

Once the system is connected, they show him specific images of different hand movements, and record the signals specifically from the brain which are associated with those movements. They then learn how to decipher those movements.

Effectively, the team can see what parts of Burkhart’s brain ‘light up’. Computer software is connected to a device in his hand which provides signals to the muscles in his arm that drive finger and hand movements. When he thinks about the hand movements, the software helps him to make those movements.

The hope is that the technology can be used to help more people with paralysis in the future.

Paralysis Reversed Source: AP

Researchers say he can now grasp a bottle, pour its contents into a jar, pick up a stick and stir the liquid.

He can grab a credit card and swipe it through a reader. He can also move individual fingers.

He does all this just by thinking about it. It’s the first time a completely paralysed person has regained movement just by using their own thoughts.

Of the first time he moved his hand, Burkhart said: “It was a big shock, because you know it’s something I hadn’t moved in about three and half years at that point. And now it’s something so fluid it’s now like it was before my injury, where I think about what I want to do and I can do it.”

- Additional reporting AP

Read: Doctors rebuilt a man’s throat using regenerating tissue>

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