Research represents big step toward development of brain-controlled artificial limbs for people
Reaching for something you want seems a simple enough task, but not for someone with a prosthetic arm, in whom the brain has no control over such fluid, purposeful movements. Yet according to research presented at the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, scientists have made significant strides to create a permanent artificial device that can restore deliberate mobility to patients with paralyzing injuries. The concept is that, through thought alone, a person could direct a robotic arm – a neural prosthesis – to reach and manipulate a desired object.
As a step toward that goal, University of Pittsburgh researchers report that a monkey outfitted with a child-sized robotic arm controlled directly by its own brain signals is able to feed itself chunks of fruits and vegetables. The researchers trained the monkey to feed itself by using signals from its brain that are passed through tiny electrodes, thinner than a human hair, and fed into a specially designed algorithm that tells the arm how to move. "The beneficiaries of such technology will be patients with spinal cord injuries or nervous system disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS," said Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and senior researcher on the project.
Lisa Rossi | EurekAlert!
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