The latest advance to restore movement to people who have become paralyzed and lost control of their muscles is now here, according to an article from The Washington Post.
A Massachusetts woman who has been paralyzed for 15 years was recently able to pick up a bottle of coffee and sip from it by sending her thoughts to a robotic arm.
Researchers have called this the first time that reaching and grasping by a brain-controlled prosthetic arm has been successful.
This new advance in technology is a huge milestone, but the scientists involved say that it will be years before similar devices become widely available.
The devices are continuously improving. In recent years, other paralyzed patients have been able to high-five with a different type of robotic arm and move a computer cursor around the screen by just thinking about it. In the near future, researchers are hoping to see more natural and faster movements with prosthetic robotic arms.
In the newest study dealing with robotic prosthetic arms, researchers implanted a tiny electrode chip into the brains of two patients. The chip is the size of a baby aspirin.
The chip was positioned on the motor cortex, a part of the brain that controls movements, and listened to signals generated by the patient’s brain cells as they thought about how they wanted to move their arms. The robotic arm was then able to move as the computer read the signal, interpreted it, and sent movement messages.
The brain-computer interface, called BrainGate, has been worked on by engineers, brain scientists, computer scientists, and mathematicians for more than a decade.
The key breakthrough of the study came when computers became programmed to interpret the brain signals as hand and arm motions.