The world’s first real-time “neural bypass’ NeuroLife, is the results of a partnership between researchers from Battelle’s Medical Device Development group in Ohio and Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Still in clinical trials, the prototype technology imitates the role of the human spinal cord. Normally, the spinal cord is responsible for relaying information from the muscles to the brain, but if this system is damaged that pathway can be disrupted. A tiny, non-invasive chip was implanted into the brain to monitor neuromuscular electrical stimulation and send that information to a computer for processing. That information is translated in real-time into a language the muscles respond to, allowing for the regaining of conscious movement. Herbert Bresler, of the Battelle innovation team said, “brain-computer interfaces are not entirely new in themselves. They’re usually used for driving a cursor on a computer screen or operating a robotic arm. What we chose to do is create high-density electrical stimulation to reanimate the subject’s own limb, which is rarely done. The fine motor control and smooth, lifelike movement is what’s brand-new.”
NeuroLife has enabled one person with paralysis to regain conscious control of his hand movements by bypassing damaged areas of the individual’s nervous system. The team hopes that future iterations of NeuroLife will continue to decrease in size, and are currently working on a glove that provides the user immediate feedback on where their hand is in space.