Brain Implants Gives New Life To a Paralyzed Man

By Kamal Nayan - 22 May '15 11:35AM

A man who is paralyzed from the neck down has had a chip implanted in his brain that allows him to control a robotic arm with this thoughts.

Erik Sorto, has been paralyzed for over 10 years and now he can lift his own drink to mouth using a brain-controlled robotic arm. Sorto was shot at the age of 21. He signed up for a clinical trial that involved implanting a pair of sensors implanted into a part of his brain, from where the initial intent to make a movement is formed.

The implanted sensors monitor brain activity and detect complex signals. These signals are then transferred from patient's brain to a computer, where they are translated into instructions for a robotic limb.

Researchers at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) said Mr. Sorto learnt to control his robotic limb on the first day he tried. He was able to reach out his arm and shake hands with another person.

Mr Sorto can now also control cursor on a computer screen.

"I joke around with the guys that I want to be able to drink my own beer - to be able to take a drink at my own pace, when I want to take a sip out of my beer and to not have to ask somebody to give it to me," he said.

"I really miss that independence. I think that if it was safe enough, I would really enjoy grooming myself - shaving, brushing my own teeth. That would be fantastic."

"When you move your arm, you really don't think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement-such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, and so on. Instead, you think about the goal of the movement. For example, 'I want to pick up that cup of water,'" explained principal investigator Richard Andersen.

"So in this trial, we were successfully able to decode these actual intents, by asking the subject to simply imagine the movement as a whole, rather than breaking it down into myriad components."

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