(WSVN) - Using brain power usually means deep thinking to solve problems. At the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which is part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, that phrase has a whole new meaning. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has more in today’s 7 Spotlight.

For many people, getting to drive in a NASCAR race car is a dream come true, but for German Zuniga, his time on the track is nothing short of a miracle.

German was paralyzed in a car accident 10 years ago.

German Zuniga: “At the beginning, I couldn’t do anything. I could only basically move my neck.”

Now, German is on the road to more mobility thanks to cutting edge surgery at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Dr. Jonathan Jagid: “This device is implanted underneath the skin in the chest.”

Dr. Jonathan Jagid implanted the device, called a brain-computer interface, at the end of 2018.

Dr. Jonathan Jagid: “These strips are collecting electrical information from the brain itself.”

That electrical information is sent through the device, then transmitted to a computer and on to special gloves.

They open and close when German just thinks about it.

German Zuniga: “I just visualize. Like before the accident, just more and more like just thinking about, I want to grab something. Think about doing that movement.”

Dr. Kevin Davis designed the technology that allows German to use the device outside the lab.

Dr. Kevin Davis: “We essentially took all of the stuff that they had done in the lab and packaged it into a smaller software that we put on the back of German’s wheelchair but so that he could control it or so that his caregiver could control it.”

Now, wherever he is, German can open doors, grasp objects and use a pen to write.

In the lab, he’s even working on taking steps.

German Zuniga: “Now I feel like I have more movement of my body and like more control of it.”

But his most exciting moment was in the driver’s seat with Falci Adaptive Motorsports in Colorado.

Their race car is designed for people with spinal cord injuries.

Dr. Kevin Davis: “They developed the technology on their own for the car, and then we made sure that our system was ready, so that by the time we got there, we could plug the systems together, do a quick test and run it.”

With a safety driver at his side at Pike’s Peak International Raceway, German used his thoughts to control the speed.

German Zuniga: “Oh, it was amazing to see that I have full control of the car without anybody helping me.”

German is the first patient to use the power of his brain to drive.

Dr. Kevin Davis: “Here he was essentially controlling the throttle of the car with his thoughts. There was a lot of excitement there.”

For German, it’s an experience he’ll never forget.

German Zuniga: “It felt free, felt good to be independent, to go around the laps and just enjoy the ride.”

And it’s technology that is always advancing.

Dr. Jonathan Jagid: “I think the field is really exponentially moving forward rapidly, and so I think the future is pretty big.”

German is now majoring in computer science at Miami-Dade College.

He hopes to eventually work at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, creating equipment that will help others with spinal cord injuries.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.

If there’s someone or something you think we should feature, send us an email at 7spotlight@wsvn.com.

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