Brain Sensors Show Promise For Controlling Robotic Arm

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A prosthetic controlled by brain activity is providing unprecedented levels of movement for one paralyzed woman, says a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The team, led by Professor Andrew Schwartz, implanted sensors into the brain of 53-year-old Jan Scheuermann allowing her to move a prosthetic arm with high levels of contol.

Sheuermann was diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration 13 years ago and has lost use of her limbs slowly. For the experimental procedure the researchers implanted two sensors in her motor cortex, both of which use 100 tiny needles to pick up the electrical signals from about 200 individual brain cells.

Schwartz tells the BBC that the signals these sensors send to a robotic arm produce the most tactile movement ever experienced by such a system:

"They're fluid and they're way better, I don't know how to say it any other way, they're way better than anything that's been demonstrated before. I think it really is convincing evidence that this technology is going to be therapeutic for spinal cord injured people. They are doing tasks already that would be beneficial in their daily lives and I think that's fairly conclusive at this point."

Their data appears this week in the Lancet.

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