Neuroprosthetic limbs enhance command signals in individual with tetraplegia

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center successfully performed brain-machine interface training in a 52-year-old woman with tetraplegia, according to study results recently published in The Lancet. The goal of the training was to control an anthropomorphic prosthetic limb with seven degrees of freedom.

Researchers implanted two 96-channel intracortical microelectrodes in the motor cortex of the participant. They assessed the participant’s ability to control the prosthetic limb with clinical measures of upper limb function.

On the second day of training, researchers found that the participant was able to move the prosthetic limb freely in the three-dimensional workspace, and performed seven-dimensional movements routinely after 13 weeks. According to study results, the participant was also able to use the prosthetic limb to do skilful and coordinated reach and grasp movements that resulted in clinically significant gains in tests of upper limb function. Overall, no adverse events were reported.

The researchers concluded that individuals with long-term paralysis could recover the natural and intuitive command signals for hand placement, orientation and reaching with continued development of neuroprosthetic limbs, allowing them to perform activities of daily living.

“This is a spectacular leap toward greater function and independence for people who are unable to move their own arms,” Andrew B. Schwartz, PhD, professor in the department of neurobiology at Pitt School of Medicine, stated in a press release. “This technology, which interprets brain signals to guide a robot arm, has enormous potential that we are continuing to explore. Our study has shown us that it is technically feasible to restore ability.”

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

For more information:

Collinger JL. Lancet. 2012;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61816-9.

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