“We know the steps we have to take to get there.” Degray, who continues to participate actively in the research, knew how to type before his accident but was no expert at it.
He described his newly revealed prowess in the language of a video game aficionado.
“Our study’s success marks a major milestone on the road to improving quality of life for people with paralysis,” said Jaimie Henderson, MD, professor of neurosurgery, who performed two of the three device-implantation procedures at Stanford Hospital.
The third took place at Massachusetts General Hospital.
They each had one or two baby-aspirin-sized electrode arrays placed in their brains to record signals from the motor cortex, a region controlling muscle movement.
These signals were transmitted to a computer via a cable and translated by algorithms into point-and-click commands guiding a cursor to characters on an onscreen keyboard.Henderson likened the resulting improved resolution of neural sensing, compared with that of older-generation BCIs, to that of handing out applause meters to individual members of a studio audience rather than just stationing them on the ceiling, “so you can tell just how hard and how fast each person in the audience is clapping.” Shenoy said the day will come — closer to five than 10 years from now, he predicted —when a self-calibrating, fully implanted wireless system can be used without caregiver assistance, has no cosmetic impact and can be used around the clock.“I don’t see any insurmountable challenges.” he said.The researchers gauged the speeds at which the patients were able to correctly copy phrases and sentences — for example, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Average rates were 7.8 words per minute for Degray and 6.3 and 2.7 words per minute, respectively, for the other two participants.The investigational system used in the study, an intracortical brain-computer interface called the Brain Gate Neural Interface System*, represents the newest generation of BCIs.Neilsen Foundation, the Stanford Medical Scientist Training Program, Stanford Bio X-Neuro Ventures, the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neuroscience, the Stanford Neuroscience Institute, Larry and Pamela Garlick, Samuel and Betsy Reeves, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the U. Department of Veterans Affairs, the MGH-Dean Institute for Integrated Research on Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke and Massachusetts General Hospital.Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing holds intellectual property on the intercortical BCI-related engineering advances made in Shenoy’s lab.“I’ve got nothing going on below the collarbones,” he said.Degray received two device implants at Henderson’s hands in August 2016.Sometimes it arrives suddenly, as in Degray’s case. 10, 2007, when he fell and sustained a life-changing spinal-cord injury. Holding the garbage in one hand and the recycling in the other, he slipped on the grass and landed on his chin.The impact spared his brain but severely injured his spine, cutting off all communication between his brain and musculature from the head down.