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Chip implanted in the brain 'reanimates' paralyzed man's hand

Implanted two years ago, the chip transmits the man's thoughts directly to his hand muscles, doctors report in "Nature."


Ian Burkhart is paralyzed from the shoulders down after breaking his neck five years ago in a freak diving accident. But with the help of a chip implanted in his brain, Burkhart, 24, can control his right arm and wrist -- making him the first person with a "reanimated limb," according to a study published Wednesday in the science journal "Nature."

Scientists implanted the chip two years ago, after Burkhart volunteered to take part in the development of reanimation technology at Ohio State University in Columbus, 25 minutes away from his home in Dublin, Ohio. The chip sends his thoughts directly to his hand muscles, bypassing his injured spinal cord.

While this isn't a cure -- Burkhart can move his hand and fingers only when connected to a laboratory computer -- the results suggest our brains may be able to adapt more easily than scientists had thought.

"It gives us a lot of hope that there are perhaps not as many neural changes in the brain as we might have imagined after an injury like this," said Chad Bouton, lead researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, who has studied Burkhart for the past two years.