October 17, 2011

Man With Spinal Cord Injury Uses Brain-Computer Interface to Move Prosthetic Arm With His Thoughts

(October 17, 2011)  Seven years after a motorcycle accident damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed, 30-year-old Tim Hemmes reached up to touch hands with his girlfriend in a painstaking and tender high-five

Hemmes, of Evans City, Pa., is the first to participate in a new trial assessing whether the thoughts of a person with spinal-cord injury can be used to control the movement of an external device, such as a computer cursor or a sophisticated prosthetic arm. The project, one of two brain-computer interface (BCI) studies under way at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, used a grid of electrodes placed on the surface of the brain to control the arm.

It was a unique robotic arm and hand, designed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, that Hemmes willed to extend first toward the palm of a researcher on the team and, a few minutes later, to his girlfriend’s hand.

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