According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, almost one in 50 people live with some form of paralysis. Imagine being paralyzed after a stroke or serious accident and no longer being able to move your arms, then one day your doctor tells you of a new device that is going to empower you to move again. Researchers at Battelle Memorial Institute have developed groundbreaking technology that can do just that; it can help paralyzed patients regain conscious control of their arms, wrists, hands and fingers.
The Neurobridge system works by bypassing damaged areas of an individual’s nervous system and communicating directly with the muscles in the paralyzed limb. A team of surgeons at The Ohio State University Wexner Center, have been able to implant a minute chip with the motor cortex area of the brain—the area responsible for voluntary movement. The chip picks up electrical signals from the brain and transmits the data to a computer, which uses Battelle’s decoding software. The information is then passed on to an arm cuff which contains specialized electrodes that stimulate the muscles and cause specific movements.
In an interview with Fox News Insider Chad Bouton, the engineer who developed the neurobridge system, said, “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.”
In partnership with Cyberkinetics, Battelle has developed the BrainGate implant. The implant is only 4x4mm and can be surgically placed on a paralyzed patient’s motor cortex. The chip picks up electrical signals from the brain and transmits them to a computer for processing. BrainGate can be used to help patients control a computer cursor or wheelchair simply by thinking about it.
Battelle teamed up with Neuros Medical to develop a nerve-stimulating device aimed at helping amputees with phantom limb pain. The technology uses a generator the size of a pacemaker and an electrode to stimulate certain nerves and block chronic pain. Further applications for the device may include helping block pain in other chronic conditions, such as post-surgical pain and migraine headaches.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Battelle’s researchers are also responsible for the development of Closed-Loop Deep Brain Stimulation. This type of neurostimulation can help slow down the uncontrolled shaking that affects people with Parkinson’s disease, it can also help to calm essential tremor—a disorder of the nervous system that causes shaking of the hands, arms or legs.
Closed-loop deep brain stimulation has made a significant advance on current open-loop systems because it has fewer side effects and unlock the open-loop system, it does not cause symptoms to worsen over time. Battelle’s system adjusts itself automatically and requires less power than the open-loop system.
Founded in 1929, Battelle is the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization. Battelle is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, but conducts research at more than 60 laboratories and technology centers throughout the world. As well as medical research, Battelle’s teams also work in to serve national security, life sciences and the energy and environmental sectors.
Some of Battelle’s other cutting-edge research in the medical field includes novel methods of drug delivery, including patch pumps and skin permeation delivery systems, innovative molecular imaging technologies and in vitro diagnostics.
In other areas of health and analytics, Battelle is working with a number of federal agencies, such as the Defense Health Agency, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They have numerous ongoing collaborative research projects, including developing solutions for enhancing patient experience, reducing the cost of care, and providing preparedness for Military Force Health Protection, Emergency Medicine, Civilian Public Health Preparedness, and Food and Agricultural Security Preparedness.
Image credit: Battelle