Ian Burkhart was paralyzed in a swimming accident years ago, losing the ability to use his right arm from the elbow down. Now, thanks to a medical chip implanted in his brain, he is able to move his arm using his own thoughts.

Today on Happening Now, Jenna Lee spoke to Chad Bouton, the engineer who developed the neurobridge system, and Dr. Ali Rezai, the neurosurgeon performed the surgery on Burkhart.

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A micro-sensor was implanted into the area controlling Burkhart's hand and forearm. 

Bouton explained, “We have a tiny chip in the motor area of the brain that’s responsible for movement. We’re actually picking up signals from that part of the brain and […] decoding. So we’re interpreting what Ian is thinking about. Then we’re going around his spinal cord injury and transiting those signals into a language that his muscles can understand, so that he can think about a movement and then hopefully achieve it.”

The time it takes for thought to turn into movement is now down to less than one-tenth of a second.

As part of the re-learning process, Burkhart must visualize the movement in order to train himself to send those signals to his arm.

Bouton said, “His level of focus every time we work with him is just amazing. We’re learning a lot from Ian and at the same time we’re learning from his data.”

Going forward, Bouton said they’re hoping to adapt the technology to help people who have suffered from a stroke to regain control they’ve lost. 

Learn more about this incredible medical breakthrough in the video above. 

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