First Spinal Cord Injury Patient Learns Mind Control of Robotic Arm

Written by Laura Dyrda | October 10, 2011 | Print  |
After suffering a spinal cord injury in 2004 and diagnosed with quadriplegia, Tim Hemmes has learned to control a robotic arm with his mind, using a system designed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. Mr. Hemmes reached out his robotic arm to touch the hand of his girlfriend, which was the first time a person with quadriplegia has been able to successfully use mind control to manipulate a robotic arm. He practiced mind control exercises for six hours every day, six days per week for a month before being able to move the arm, according to the report.

Michael Boninger, MD, director of UPMC's Rehabilitation Institute was the principle investigator in the project. To use the system, electrocorticography was used to install an electronic grid against Mr. Hemmes' brain without penetration to capture brain signals. A computer algorithm interprets the brain signals and translates them into movement of the robotic arm.

The project was initially funded by UPMC but has received more than $6 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Institute of Health and U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The next phase of the trial will include six people in another 30-day trial with ECoG.

Related Articles on Spinal Cord Injury:

Restoring Function After Spinal Cord Injury With Nerve Transplant: The New Frontier

Clinical Trials Show Embryonic Stem Cell-Based Therapy Safe for Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Spinal Cord Injury Patients at Florida's Nova Southeastern University Benefit From iPads


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