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Brain chip helps quadriplegics move robotic arms with their thoughts
May 25, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
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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