Paralysis: Scientists restore movement, feeling in man via microchip

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Scientists have managed to restore feeling and movement in a man with paralysis. MirageC/Getty Images
  • Researchers with Northwell Health helped reestablish feeling and movement in the arm and hand of a man with paralysis.
  • In a groundbreaking study, they implanted microchips into the man’s brain and harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) to rebuild connections between his brain, spinal cord, and body.
  • The man has also experienced lasting gains in his wrist and arm outside the laboratory.
  • The researchers expect their thought-driven therapy technology to help people with paralysis “live fuller, more independent lives.”

Health experts have long held that severe spinal cord injury damages central nervous system function beyond repair. However, researchers at Northwell Health in New York have been challenging this assumption with a game-changing breakthrough.

In March 2023, bioelectric medicine researchers, surgeons, and engineers at Northwell’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research successfully enabled a man to move and feel with his paralyzed arm and hand.

In their novel clinical trial, the team performed a 15-hour open-brain surgery to restore communication between the body and brain of Keith Thomas of Massapequa, who has been living with paralysis since 2020.

The Northwell Health colleagues developed AI algorithms, brain implants, and innovative stimulation technology to form the first-of-its-kind “double neural bypass.” This bypass forms an electronic “bridge” that facilitates the flow of information throughout the participant’s body, spinal cord, and brain.

Chad Bouton, professor in the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, developed this technology and was the trial’s principal investigator.

“This is the first time the brain, body and spinal cord have been linked together electronically in a paralyzed human to restore lasting movement and sensation.”
— Prof. Chad Bouton

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