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Tetraplegic Woman Controls Bionic Arm With Her Brain

Tetraplegic Woman Controls Bionic Arm With Her Brain

A woman paralyzed in all four limbs takes a sip of coffee from a straw using the DEKA arm system and her mind…

Cathy Hutchinson hasn’t been able to drink anything without the help of her carer in 15 years since she suffered a stroke. But recently, thanks to a bionic arm and the most advanced brain-machine interface ever built, she was able to sip coffee though a straw simply by thinking about performing the action.

In 2005 Hutchinson let a team of researchers at Brown University implant a small chip in her motor cortex, and after years of research the hard work has finally paid off.

Paralysis is caused by damaged nerves, which do not correctly receive signals from the brain. The brain machine interface works by bypassing damaged nerves and sending the signal directly to a device on the outside world.

quadriplegic women controls bionic arm with her mind

Cathy Hutchinson Controls The DEKA Arm System With Her Brain

The chip implanted inside the brain receives these signals, which are then decoded by a control computer and sent to the robotic arm to direct its movement.

The project, dubbed Brain Gate, first saw success in 2006 when a Matt Naugle, a patient left paralyzed in all four limbs after being stabbed, was able to move a curser on a screen using the technology.

Now with help from DEKA, the company headed by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and the bionic Luke Arm, the team is honing its design with more precision than ever before.

As you can see in the clip below, Hutchinson drinks from the cup and straw with elegance – and was able to do so four out of six times.

In the future the scientists hope to develop the technology to allow for more complex actions such as brushing teeth, and preparing food. They also plan to make the whole system wireless so the device it doesn’ t have to plug directly into the brain.

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  1. Keith Wagstaff: WATCH: Paralyzed Woman Controls Robot with Her Brain. Time, 05/16/2012.

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