Patient uses brain-machine interface to control robotic arm

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh demonstrated that brain-machine interface (BMI) could be used by an individual with tetraplegia to control a robotic prosthetic arm, according to research presented by Elizabeth C. Tyler-Kabara, MD, PhD, FAANS, assistant professor of neurological surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans.

The researchers implanted two 96-channel intracortical microelectrodes into the motor cortex of an individual with tetraplegia using multi-modality image guidance, and BMI training was conducted for 6 months to train the individual to control an anthropomorphic prosthetic arm with 10 degrees of freedom, according to a news release.

After only 2 days of training, the individual was able to move the prosthetic device freely in three-dimensional space. After 13 weeks of training, seven degree-of-freedom movements were regularly performed, including three-dimensional translation and orientation and one-dimensional grasping. After 6 months, the individual exercised robust 10 degree-of-freedom movements routinely in three-dimensional translation and orientation and fourth-dimension hand posture. The participant in the study also could use the prosthetic limb to perform a variety of skillful and coordinated reach and grasp movements, which resulted in clinically significant gains in tests of upper-limb function.

Researchers concluded that this study suggests that a person with chronic tetraplegia can perform consistent, natural, complex movements with an anthropomorphic robotic arm to regain clinically significant limb function.

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