Maria Cheng

LONDON: A paralyzed Cleveland man was able to feed himself for the first time in eight years, after doctors implanted sensors in his brain that sent signals to his arm.

Bill Kochevar, 56, was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a cycling accident in Cleveland in 2006.

To help him move again, in 2014, doctors surgically placed two tiny implants in his brain to pick up signals from neurons from the area that controls hand movement. The signals are relayed through external cables to a computer, which sends commands to electrodes in his arm and hand muscles.

“It was amazing,” Kochevar said. “I couldn’t believe I could do it just by thinking about it.”

But after years of being paralyzed, Kochevar’s shoulder wasn’t strong enough to lift his arm, so doctors also provided a robotic arm support. The case was detailed Tuesday in the journal Lancet.

“We know that [in paralyzed people] the spinal cord is damaged and the signals from the brain do not make it down to the muscles. And so in our system, we have effectively bridged that,” said researcher Bob Kirsch of Case Western Reserve University, the study’s senior author.

Kirsch said he hopes patients like Kochevar might be able to use such technology outside of the lab within a few years, but that would require several engineering upgrades.