Friday, November 02, 2012

Paralyzed Woman Uses Thought-Controlled Robotic Arm

The BrainGate implantable microelectrode array

Cathy Hutchinson has been unable to move her own arms or legs for 15 years. But using the most advanced brain-machine interface ever developed, she can steer a robotic arm towards a bottle, pick it up, and drink her morning coffee. The interface includes a sensor implanted in Cathy’s brain, which ‘reads’ her thoughts, and a decoder, which turns her thoughts into instructions for the robotic arm. In this video, watch Cathy control the arm and hear from the team behind the pioneering study.
The trial was a collaborative effort of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It had two participants – the woman and a 66 year-old man, identified only as S3 and T2, respectively. Both of them had lost the use of their limbs years ago, due to brainstem strokes. They manipulated two different robotic arms, designed by the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, and DEKA Research and Development Corp.
The business end of BrainGate, however, is a silicon microelectrode array that was implanted in each subject’s motor cortex (a part of the brain that’s associated with voluntary movement). That array is described as being about the size of a baby Aspirin, and contains 96 separate electrodes. An output cable leads from that array, to an external port on top of the user’s head.

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