In the summer of 2010, Ian Burkhart and a few of his friends traveled to North Carolina. The group was on vacation, and Ian was ready to enjoy several swimming sessions. As he attempted to dive into an upcoming wave, the force of the ocean pushed him into a sandbar.
As soon as the shock passed, he realized that he could no longer move his body. He was pulled from the water by his friends and taken to the hospital. The doctors conducted a series of tests which revealed a grim verdict. When Ian was slammed into the sandbar, the force of the impact was so powerful that his spinal cord was severed.
Ian lost the ability to walk, the motions that could be made by his arms were limited, and the sense of touch was affected severely. Several years passed without any signs of recovery, and Ian decided to take a risky decision: he joined an experimental program conducted by a nonprofit organization.
A man recovers lost senses with the help of a new brain implant
The program involved the use of a chip that is implanted in the brain of the patient, where it can release signals which can improve the control over arms and the sense of touch. The results have been quite impressive as Ian can now feel objects, and his fine motor skills have been recovered.
It is well-known that a serious spinal injury will block signals which travel between the brain the members. Recent research has asserted that in some cases, a few fibers can withstand the trauma and remain functional as long as extra stimuli are used to send the required signals.
A significant amount of work was needed to tune the signals which are generated by the chip, which is smaller than a grain of rice. The applications seem to be promising, and further research will take place in the future.