Researchers at Battelle this week touted that the 1st user of its experimental NeuroLife system, designed to restore upper body mobility control to paralyzed patients through mental control, has shown improved control smoothness and accuracy with the system.
The groups newest achievements are included in a peer-reviewed scientific paper published this week in Nature‘s Scientific Reports.
The NeuroLife system consists of a brain-implanted microchip, a computer system with custom built algorithms and machine learning and specially made sleeves designed to stimulate arm muscles and allow the patient to use thoughts to control the limbs.
The system has already helped its 1st user, Ian Burkhart, achieve motor control of his paralyzed arms and hands through his own thoughts, but researchers said that until now, each movement was achieved with a binary “off or on, black or white” amount of force.
Improvements have helped Burkhart smoothly control movements through a continuum of states, Battelle said, generating precise levels of force that researchers say will be necessary if the system is to be practical for everyday use.
“Enabling users to precisely grade their muscle contractions expands the possible uses of the NeuroLife technology and opens the door for handling delicate objects,” lead author and NeuroLife Algorithms team head David Friedenberg said in a press release.
In addition to smoother control, Burkhart has shown the ability to manipulate individual fingers and grasp objects of many different shapes and sizes, researchers said.
“Over that past three years, Ian has dramatically improved from initial rough movements of simple opening and closing of his hands, to much more fluid, sophisticated and precise movements of individual fingers. Ian is also able to perform dynamic movements with grasping and manipulating objects of different sizes and shapes with gradations in the force of his grip. This study demonstrates the significant potential and capabilities of brain computer interface technology to improve function and help patients with disabilities,” Dr. Ali Rezai of Ohio State University, who implanted the system’s Utah array chip into Burkhart’s brain, said in prepared remarks.
Last April, MassDevice.com spoke to NeuroLife electrical engineering task lead Nick Annetta about the project, the system and Burkhart’s willingness to invest in the multi-year project.