Here at Wimp, we often catch glimpses of the future, whether it be trucks with LED screens that increase safety for all drivers on the road, or people donning wingsuits to “fly” through surreal landscapes. The future is now. Although it’s awesome seeing life get better for the average person, it’s even more amazing to see it improve for those with what was once irreversible medical conditions.
One of the biggest uses of technology in medicine has been in treating nervous system injuries and diseases. There are spoons for those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease that borrow technology from digital cameras. There are powered prosthetics that give amputees newfound mobility.
Paralysis, on the other hand, has been something of a tough nut to crack. The nervous system itself is difficult for doctors to work with. Recent advances have allowed remapping of existing nerves to interface with the aforementioned prosthetics, but for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries, especially in the neck, many existing treatments can’t help much. That’s where the technology in the following video comes in.
Ian Burkhart was paralyzed in a freak accident while swimming on vacation. Losing the use of nearly his entire body, Ian has recently regained the use of his hand through an incredible feat of technology. Researchers implanted a sensor chip inside Ian’s brain, and have spent the past two years recording brain activity when Ian would think of doing things like wiggling his fingers. They developed hardware and software that could recognize these brain impulses and then translate them into electrical stimulation via electrodes strapped to his arm.
Essentially an external, artificial nervous system, this system is only in its infancy but the results are already incredible. Ian can manipulate objects with surprising amounts of dexterity. With enough time and refinement, it’s possible the technology could potentially put an end to the prison of paralysis. It’s the stuff of science fiction, but it’s real, and isn’t it wonderful?
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H/T: Nature Video