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For the first time, AI allows a quadriplegic patient to recover sensation and movement in the arm and hand

In a one-of-a-kind clinical trial, bioelectronic medicine researchers, engineers and surgeons at Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in the US successfully implanted microchips into the brain of a man living with paralysis and developed algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI) to relink your brain to your body and spinal cord.

This double neural bypass forms an electronic bridge that has allowed information to once again flow between the man’s paralyzed body and brain to restore movement and sensation in his hand with lasting gains in his arm and wrist outside of the lab.

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“This is the first time that the brain, body and spinal cord have been electronically linked in a paralyzed human to restore lasting movement and sensation.”said Chad Bouton, a professor in the Institute for Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, vice president of advanced engineering at Northwell Health, developer of the technology and principal investigator of the clinical trial.

“When the study participant thinks about moving their arm or hand, we ‘overload’ their spinal cord and stimulate their brain and muscles to help rebuild connections, provide sensory feedback, and promote recovery.. This type of thought-driven therapy is a game changer. Our goal is to use this technology one day to give people living with paralysis the ability to live fuller, more independent lives.”has explained.

Paralyzed from the chest down, Keith Thomas, 45, of Massapequa, New York, is the first to use this technology. During the height of the pandemic, on July 18, 2020, a diving accident caused an injury to the C4 and C5 level of the vertebrae of the spine, leaving him unable to move and feel from the chest down. Alone and isolated in the hospital for more than six months, Thomas found new hope by participating in Dr. Bouton’s clinical trial.

“There was a time when I didn’t know if I was going to live, or if I wanted to, frankly. And now, I can feel the touch of someone holding my hand. It’s overwhelming. All I want to do is help others. It’s always been what I’m best at. If this can help someone even more than it has helped me at some point, it’s worth it.”the patient stated.

Wheelchair. (Photo: referential)

This breakthrough comes four months after he underwent complex 15-hour brain surgery on March 9 at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). LResearchers and doctors spent months mapping Thomas’s brain using fMRIs to help identify the areas responsible for arm movement and for the sensation of touch in his hand.

Armed with that information, the surgeons performed the operation, during which the study participant was awake and provided real-time feedback to the surgeons. As they explored parts of the surface of his brain, Thomas told them what sensations he felt in his hands.

LOOK: With artificial intelligence they manage to make a man recover part of the mobility of his arm

“Because we had Keith’s images and he talked to us during parts of his surgery, we knew exactly where to place the brain implants. We inserted two chips in the area responsible for movement and three more in the part of the brain responsible for touch and sensation in the fingers.” said Ashesh Mehta, a professor at the Feinstein Institutes’ Institute for Bioelectronic Medicine, director of Northwell’s Laboratory for Human Brain Mapping and the surgeon who performed the brain implant.

Back in the lab Through two ports protruding from the patient’s head, it connects to a computer that uses AI to read, interpret and translate their thoughts into action, known as thought-driven therapy. and the basis of the dual neural shunt approach.

When Thomas thinks about squeezing her hand, he sends electrical signals from his brain implant to a computer, which sends signals to highly flexible, non-invasive electrode patches that are placed over the spine and hand muscles located on the forearm to stimulate and promote function and recovery. Tiny sensors in your fingertips and palm send touch and pressure information back to the sensory area of ​​your brain to restore sensation.

This two-armed electronic bridge forms the novel double neural bypass intended to restore both movement and the sense of touch. In the lab, Thomas has been able to move his arms at will and feel his sister’s touch as she holds her hand for support. This is the first time he has felt anything in the three years since his accident.

Surprisingly, the researchers note that Thomas is already starting to see a natural recovery from his injuries thanks to this new approach, which could reverse some of the damage for good.. His arm strength has more than doubled since she enrolled in the study, and she is beginning to experience new sensations in her forearm and wrist, even when the system is turned off.

Until now, previous research by Professor Bouton, and other groups, had used a single neural bypass to help people move paralyzed limbs with their thoughts. In those cases, doctors implanted one or more microchips in the brain that prevented spinal cord injury altogether, and used stimulators to activate the targeted muscles.

However, that approach only worked while participants were connected to computers, often only available in labs, and did not restore motion and sensation to the real limb while promoting plasticity for long-lasting natural recovery.

The hope is that the brain, body, and spinal cord relearn how to communicate, and new pathways are forged at the site of injury thanks to the double neural bypass, similar to how a kidney can regenerate to overcome trauma or disease. .

Source: Elcomercio

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