SALT LAKE CITY (March 30, 2017) – Bill Kochevar, paralyzed from the shoulders down after a cycling accident, has regained control of his right arm as a result of the work done by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. This groundbreaking research utilized Blackrock’s Utah Array as a component of an investigational brain-computer interface (BCI).
Scientists decoded Kochevar’s brain signals from two Utah arrays implanted in the hand area of his motor cortex, and relayed the signals to muscles in his arm using electrical stimulation. “What the researchers at Case Western Reserve have managed to do with Bill takes neuroprosthetic discovery to the next level,” said Marcus Gerhardt, CEO of Blackrock Microsystems. He continued stating that as a Utah company, “We are proud to have a Utah innovation at the core of this discovery.”
Researchers working on the BrainGate2 clinical trial enlisted Kochevar, who is almost entirely paralyzed, and performed three surgeries to fit him with the electrode arrays in his brain, arm, and hand. In addition to the two Utah Array’s in Kochevar’s motor cortex, the system uses 36 electrodes implanted in his arm and hand. These electrodes are a crucial part of the experiment, as they are responsible for stimulating the muscles and evoking movement. The researchers “programmed” the BCI by having Kochevar imagine he was moving his arm, as they moved it for him. Eventually, the BCI system was able to decode Kochevar’s brain signals into the required electrical stimulation of his muscles that enabled him to feed himself and drink a cup of coffee. It was a monumental moment for Kochevar, who has been paralyzed for 11 years, as well as the scientists who dedicate themselves to their research.