Paralysed man moves arm and hand with thought-controlled technology

Bill Kochevar uses his arm and hand to give himself a drink. Credit: The Lancet

A man who was paralysed in a cycling accident can now move his right arm and hand thanks to thought-controlled technology.

Bill Kochevar was paralysed below his shoulders in a cycling accident eight-years-ago, but with the help of new technology he can now grasp and lift objects.

The 56-year-old is thought to be the first person in the world with quadriplegia to have arm and hand movement restored by two kinds of implant.

Electrodes under his skull record the activity of brain neurons to generate signals that tell another device to stimulate muscles in the paralysed limb.

In preparation, Mr Kochevar first learned how to use his brain signals to move a virtual-reality arm on a computer screen.

In one test Mr Kochevar, from Cleveland, Ohio, picked up a mug of water and drank from a straw, while in another test he was able to scoop up forkfuls of mashed potato from a bowl.

Thought-controlled technology has allowed Bill Kochevar to move his arm and hand. Credit: AP

Mr Kochevar described his breakthrough as "awesome" and "better than I thought it would be".

A report on his progress appears in the latest issue of [The Lancet]( medical journal.

Principal investigator Dr Bob Kirsch, from Case Western Reserve University in the US, said: "He's really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community. This is a major step toward restoring some independence."

Mr Kochevar is a participant in the on-going BrainGate2 trial looking at the safety and feasibility of using brain-computer interface systems to help people paralysed by spinal injuries.

Other BrainGate research has demonstrated the "mind control" of cursors on computer screens and robotic arms.

To counterbalance the force of gravity, which would otherwise drag his arm down, Mr Kochever was also fitted with a mobile support also under his brain's control.

BrainGate2 clinical principal investigator Dr Benjamin Walter, from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said: "Every day, most of us take for granted that when we will to move, we can move any part of our body with precision and control in multiple directions and those with traumatic spinal cord injury or any other form of paralysis cannot.

"The ultimate hope of any of these individuals is to restore this function.

"By restoring the communication of the will to move from the brain directly to the body, this work will hopefully begin to restore the hope of millions of paralysed individuals that someday they will be able to move freely again."