Brain sensor helps paralyzed people do tasks
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
A brain implant makes it possible for paralyzed patients to move a robotic arm and a computer cursor with some ease, says a study released Thursday.
The report published in the journal Nature comes amid intense efforts by neuroprosthetics researchers to give paralyzed patients more normal lives.
A second journal study involving two monkeys suggests such implants may allow paralyzed people to type the equivalent of 15 words a minute.
Brain implants "are really a launching pad for a whole new kind of neurotechnology," says John Donoghue of Brown University in Providence, co-author of the first study. He and colleagues report that an implant enabled a 25-year-old paralyzed man to squeeze a robotic hand and use a robotic arm to move objects and a computer cursor.
Unlike efforts that employ non-invasive scalp readings of brain activity, researchers surgically attached a rigid 100-electrode sensor, about the size of a pencil eraser tip, atop the motor-control region of the paralyzed patient's brain.
The sensor read the firing of brain cells when the patient thought about moving his arms or hands.
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