Breakthrough: Mind-controlled hand offers hope for paralyzed
PARIS, Dec 18, 2012 (Arab News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Scientists yesterday announced they had created a robot hand that was the most advanced brain-controlled prosthetic limb ever made.
The mind-powered prosthesis is a breakthrough, the team of neurologists and bio-engineers reported in The Lancet. With further development "individuals with long-term paralysis could recover the natural and intuitive command signals for hand placement, orientation and reaching, allowing them to perform activities of daily living," they said.
Researchers have long been interested in the brain-machine interface, whereby implants pick up electrical signals in parts of the brain associated with movement. These signals are then transcribed into computer code, which orders the artificial limb to move.
The new work vastly improves the code, or algorithm, by which the first signal is transcribed into the second, the investigators said.
The team implanted two microelectrode arrays into the left motor cortex of a 52-year-old woman. She had been left paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move her arms and legs due to a condition called spinocerebellar degeneration.
Two weeks after the operation, the prosthesis was connected and the woman embarked on 14 weeks of training -- but on only the second day, she was able to move the limb through mind power.
The training aimed at achieving skills in nine tasks, such as gripping and moving small objects, stacking cones and bumping a ball so that it rolled outside a loose coil of wire. At the end, the volunteer completed the tasks with a success rate of up to 91.6%, and more than 30 seconds faster than at the start of the trial.
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