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Using Thoughts to Control a Robotic Arm

The BBC reported some really great news in May. The headline reads: “Paralysed patients use thoughts to control robotic arm.” The article is by Fergus Walsh.

The wonderful news is that two people in the USA paralysed from the neck down due to strokes have been able to command a robotic arm by using their thoughts. A very small chip linked to a computer was implanted in their brains. The sensor then translates electrical signals into instructions.

Cathy Hutchinson, one of the two patients, was able to take a drink of coffee without help for the first time in almost 15 years.

The BBC story explains: “Thinking about moving an arm or hand activates neurons in this part of the brain and the electrical activity is sent via a cable to a computer, which translates them into commands.” Neurologist John Donoghue of Brown University, one of the project’s partners along with the Department of Veteran Affairs, Rhode Island, as well as Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said: “There was a moment of true joy, true happiness. It was beyond the fact that it was an accomplishment. I think it was an important advance in the field of brain-computer interfaces that we had helped someone do something they had wished to do for many years.”

For more on this success story and the “BrainGate” team’s lofty goals, click here.

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