PARIS - A decade after a bike crash left a US man paralysed from the shoulders down, he can again feed himself, researchers said yesterday.
This, a medical first, hinges on a prosthesis which circumvents rather than repairs his spinal injury, using wires, electrodes and computer software to reconnect the severed link between his brain and muscles.
"This is the first instance in the world of a person with severe and chronic paralysis directly using their own brain activity to move their own arm and hand to perform functional movements," lead study author Bolu Ajiboye of Case Western Reserve University in the US said.
The study's only patient, Mr Bill Kochevar, 56, has two surgically-implanted clusters of electrodes - each no bigger than a baby aspirin - in his head to read his brain signals, which are interpreted by a computer.
His muscles then receive their instructions from electrodes in his arm.
This has allowed Mr Kochevar, after around 10 years of immobility, to sip coffee, scratch his nose and eat mashed potatoes in laboratory tests.
Mr Kochevar uses a mobile support, which is also under his brain's control, according to the study published in The Lancet medical journal.
Though the prosthesis remains experimental, the researchers hope their work will one day help people with paralysis do daily tasks on their own.