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Brain chip helps quadriplegics move robotic arms with their thoughts

May 25, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
BrainChip.jpg[Image: Reach out: In a clinical trial, a woman used a brain-chip system to control a robotic arm with her thoughts and reach for a drink of coffee.  The BrainGate Collaboration (braingate2.org) and Nature]

It's the first study to show that brain chips can assist paralyzed people to perform complex real-world tasks.

May 16, 2012 by Susan Young via ISPR
-- A paralyzed patient equipped with an implanted brain chip has been able to use a robotic arm to reach for and pick up a bottle of coffee, bring it close enough to her face so she could drink from a straw, and then place the bottle back on the table.

The quadriplegic patient was outfitted with an electronic brain implant that can drive a robotic arm to reach and grasp objects (see video). A study published today in the journal Nature shows that people with the brain chips can use the devices to perform complex three-dimensional tasks that could be helpful in daily life. Furthermore, the implanted electrodes can record neuronal signals for as long as five years--longer than had been suspected. In previous studies, patients using brain implants have been able to move a cursor on a screen, but not perform complicated movements with objects in the real world.

The results are the latest announcements from a team led by John Donoghue, a neuroscientist at Brown University. Donoghue and collaborators had reported in 2006 that patients paralyzed by spinal-cord injuries could use brain-machine interfaces to drive the movement of cursors on a screen and do simple open-and-close movements with a robotic hand. Now the researchers have shown that a brain-machine interface can direct more complicated tasks. "Not only can people control a computer cursor, they can control really complex devices like a robotic arm that can carry out the functions that our own arm can do," says Donoghue.

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