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Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm Gets Closer Than Ever to Human Limb

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Jan Scheuermann operates a mind-controlled robotic arm

Jan Scheuermann stacks cones with a mind-controlled robotic arm.

Credit: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

U.S. researchers say they have developed a robotic arm directly controlled by brain impulses that is superior to other robotic limbs in mimicking the fluidity and control of the human arm.

University of Pittsburgh researchers implanted two microelectrode devices into a paralyzed subject's left motor cortex and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to find the precise brain region that lit up after the patient was asked to think about moving her arms. The electrodes interfaced with a robotic hand via a computer operating an algorithm to translate the signals that emulates how an unimpaired brain controls healthy limbs. "There is no limit now to decoding human motion," says researcher Michael Boninger.

Following a long training period, the subject eventually was able to use the hand to complete tasks with a 91.6 percent success rate.

The researchers want to incorporate wireless technology to make a physical connection between the patient and the prosthesis unnecessary. In addition, they say incorporating a sensory loop should make it possible for the user to distinguish between hot and cold, or smooth and rough surfaces.

From Reuters
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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