A research team led by Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an adjunct faculty member in the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, has enabled a woman with longstanding quadriplegia to control a human-like robot arm using two electrodes implanted in her brain.
Schwartz and his colleagues reported in The Lancet on the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology and the training programs that made it possible for Jan Scheuermann of Whitehall Borough, Pa., to move the arm, turn and bend a wrist and close a hand. Scheuermann was even able to feed herself a bit of chocolate.
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“This is a spectacular leap toward greater function and independence for people who are unable to move their own arms,” Schwartz said. “This technology, which interprets brain signals to guide a robot arm, has enormous potential that we are continuing to explore. Our study has shown us that it is technically feasible to restore ability; the participants have told us that BCI gives them hope for the future.”