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Woman powers robotic arm wirelessly

By Tim Sandle     Dec 22, 2014 in Science
Pittsburgh - A paralyzed woman has used her brain to move a robotic arm wirelessly. This is said to be the most dexterous movement yet accomplished via a brain-machine interface.
Medical technologists have enabled a quadriplegic woman to successfully use a brain-machine interface (BMI) to move an advanced robotic arm. Not only that, the range of movements and the accomplishments are said to be the most complex yet achieved using such technology.
The achievement goes back to 2012 when researchers based at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine implanted two electrodes with dozens of contact points into the brain of a woman called Jan Scheuermann. Scheuermann had been paralyzed from the neck down since 2003.
In initial trials, Scheuermann, aged 55, successfully used her thoughts to wirelessly manipulate a robotic hand. This included reaching in three dimensions, flexing the wrist, and gripping objects. Now Scheuermann and the research team have achieved even more impressive feats of mid-controlled robotic motion. After further training, Scheuermann has successfully controlled the robot arm as it picked up large and small boxes, a rock, a ball, and tubes of varying dimensions.
Commenting on these new feats, lead scientist Jennifer Collinger said in a research note: “Our project has shown that we can interpret signals from neurons with a simple computer algorithm to generate sophisticated, fluid movements that allow the user to interact with the environment.”
Although Scheuermann has managed some incredibly manipulations, her device is not yet ready to be used outside of the laboratory. Furthermore, the electrodes have not been removed from her brain, pending further study.
The new BMI study has been published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The study is titled “Ten-dimensional anthropomorphic arm control in a human brain−machine interface: difficulties, solutions, and limitations.”
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