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Brain-computer link lets paralyzed patients convert thoughts into actions

A multi-institutional team of researchers has found that people with long-standing, severe paralysis can generate signals in the area of the brain responsible for voluntary movement and these signals can be detected, recorded, routed out of the brain to a computer and converted into actions -- enabling a paralyzed patient to perform basic tasks.

In the 13 July 2006 issue of Nature, the researchers present the first published results from the initial participants in a clinical trial of the BrainGate Neural Interface System, a "neuromotor prosthesis" developed by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., of Foxborough, Mass.

The first patient, Matthew Nagle, a 25-year-old Massachusetts man with a severe spinal cord injury, has been paralyzed from the neck down since 2001. After having the BrainGate sensor implanted on the surface of his brain at Rhode Island Hospital in June 2004, he learned to control a computer cursor simply by thinking about moving it.

During 57 sessions, from July 2004 to April 2005, at New England Sinai Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, Nagle learned to open simulated e-mail, draw circular shapes using a paint program on the computer and play a simple video game, "neural Pong," using only his thoughts. He could change the channel and adjust the volume on a television, even while conversing. He was ultimately able to open and close the fingers of a prosthetic hand and use a robotic limb to grasp and move objects. Despite a decline in neural signals after 6.5 months, Nagle remained an active participant in the trial and continued to aid the clinical team in producing valuable feedback concerning the BrainGate technology.

The second patient, a 55-year-old man with a similar injury, had the sensor implanted by surgeons at the University of Chicago in April 2005 and was followed by researchers from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Cyberkinetics. Although his device initially had electrical problems,
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Source:University of Chicago Medical Center


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