Brain implants allow paralyzed man to control his arm

Scientists from Case Western Reserve University have been successful in using electronics to give a paralyzed man the ability to move his arm and hand. The tests are the first time that signals collected in the brain have been sent to electrodes placed inside someone's arm to restore movement. The scientists say that the breakthrough is a step towards creating a wireless system that can transmit brain signals through the air to electronics sewn into the limbs of paralyzed people.

The tests could represent the first steps towards a future system able to restore mobility to paralyzed people around the world. People involved with the study note that the movements of the arm in the test patient are still rough and not very coordinated.

The movement isn't fluid enough for tasks like picking up and drinking from a cup. Brain implants have previously been used by paralyzed patients to move computer cursors on a screen and to control a robotic arm. The patient in this test had two bunches of silicon electrodes implanted into the part of the brain where movements are planned nine months ago. Wires for each of the arrays emerge from the skull through metal ports that are connected to computers for signal interpretation.

Doctors inserted more than 16 fine wires into the right arm and hand of the volunteer. The electrical impulses sent over the wires allow the muscles in the arm to contract to create movement in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The user can accurately control a computer simulation of his arm using brain signals, but moving the actual limb is more challenging due to muscle atrophy.

SOURCE: Technology Review