Thursday, May 29, 2008

New technology may allow people with paralysis to operate devices with their brains alone

CNN reports May 29 that scientists have created a way for a robotic arm to be controlled directly from sensors implanted in the brain. The new technology could one day be used to allow people who are paralyzed to operate prosthetics and other devices by just using their brains.

Scientists have trained a group of monkeys to use the new technology to feed themselves marshmallows using a robot arm controlled only by sensors implanted in their brains.

Lead researcher Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh said he believes the technology will be tested in humans soon, but that it will be longer before the devices are used in actual people with disabilities.

"I think we'll be doing this on an experimental basis in two years," said Schwartz, professor of neurobiology at the university's School of Medicine.

"The arm is controlled by a network of tiny electrodes called a brain-machine interface, implanted into the motor cortex of the monkeys' brains -- the region that controls movement," CNN says. The scientists' findings were published in the journal Nature May 29.