Entries in Robotic Arm (2)


Paralyzed Woman Moves Robotic Arm With Her Mind

ABC News(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- A 58-year-old woman paralyzed by a stroke was all smiles after sipping her cinnamon latte with the help of a mind-controlled robotic arm.

Cathy Hutchinson is one of two tetraplegic patients able to reach and grasp with a robotic limb linked to a tiny sensor in her brain, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The device, called BrainGate, bypasses the nerve circuits broken by the brainstem stroke and replaces them with wires that run outside Hutchinson's body. The implanted sensor is about the size of a baby aspirin.

"You can go from the brain, which seems to be working quite well, directly to a device like a computer or a robotic arm," said BrianGate developer John Donoghue, director of the Institute for Brain Science at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "This can help restore independence to a person who was completely reliant on other people for every activity, whether it's brushing their teeth, eating their dinner or taking a drink."

Hutchinson, who has been unable to move or speak for 15 years, had the 96-channel sensor implanted in her brain's motor cortex in 2005. Since then, the BrainGate team has been fine-tuning the system to give her back some of the control she lost.

For most people, reaching and grasping is effortless. But the simple movement is guided by a complex pattern of brain activity, according to Donoghue.

With its hair-like electrodes, the BrainGate sensor taps into the flurry of brain activity, recording electrical signals that can be translated into movement commands. BrainGate also allows Hutchinson to move a computer cursor so she can communicate. But the device is not quite ready for prime time, Donoghue cautioned.

"Currently patients have a plug on their heads and need to be connected by to a cart full of electronics," he said. "We need to replace it with a wireless system."

Donoghue is collaborating with Arto Nurmikko, a neuroengineer at Brown, to do just that.

While the BrainGate system can currently control an external device, like a robotic arm, it could one day control a person's muscles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Quadriplegic Able to Touch Girlfriend, Thanks to Robotic Arm

Chad Baker/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- It’s a moment that many men take for granted, but for Tim Hemmes, touching his girlfriend’s hand was something he couldn’t do for seven years.

Hemmes, 30, was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down in 2004.  Although he considered himself “broken” after the accident, he always held out hope he would someday be able to experience everyday movements once again.

Back in August, Hemmes took part in a 30-day trial for an experimental new technology.  Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center gave Hemmes a robotic arm that he could control using his mind.

Through an electrode implanted on the surface of his brain, Hemmes used his thoughts to move a ball on the computer screen, which in turn, moved the arm.

Just a few days after the surgery, after a lot of intense concentration and brain training, he was able to high-five a researcher and then share a tender moment with his girlfriend.

“Everybody cheered when I touched the researcher,” Hemmes said. “What was I feeling? That word doesn’t exist. It was just pure emotion running through me. Then my girlfriend told me to hold her hand. I have never been able to reach out to her or rub her hand.”

“We were thrilled with the progress he made during the trial,” said Dr. Michael Boninger, director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  “When we have a patient who has a spinal cord injury or a high-level amputation, the hardest thing is to enable them to control a device.”

The technology is in its very early stages, Boninger said.

“I think the potential here in seeing [Hemmes] and his determination, and how his face lit up when he touched someone is an amazing thing,” he said. “This technology has the potential to be transformative.”

Hemmes hopes he can continue progressing toward his goal, which he says is “100 percent recovery.” While it may not have been his arm that touched his girlfriend, it was his brain that controlled the movements.

“I have to get my arms back,” he said. “I have to hug my daughter and hold her one more time.  The last person I felt before my accident was my daughter.  She was 18 months old at the time, and I laid her down to sleep.”

He wants to tell others who have suffered similar injuries that they should never give up.

“I believe this could help, and I believe there is hope.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio