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New Pitt projects will test brain computer interfaces for people with spinal cord injury
Date:2/17/2011

a prosthetic hand or a wheelchair.

The second project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for up to $6 million over three years, is part of a program led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md. It will further develop technology tested in monkeys by Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, Pitt School of Medicine, and also a senior investigator on both projects.

It uses an interface that is a tiny, 10-by-10 array of electrodes that is implanted on the surface of the brain to read activity from individual neurons. Those signals will be processed and relayed to maneuver a sophisticated prosthetic arm.

"Our animal studies have shown that we can interpret the messages the brain sends to make a simple robotic arm reach for an object and turn a mechanical wrist," Dr. Schwartz said. "The next step is to see not only if we can make these techniques work for people, but also if we can make the movements more complex."

In the study, which is expected to begin by late 2011, participants will get two separate electrodes. In future research efforts, the technology may be enhanced with an innovative telemetry system that would allow wireless control of a prosthetic arm, as well as a sensory component.

"Our ultimate aim is to develop technologies that can give patients with physical disabilities control of assistive devices that will help restore their independence," Dr. Boninger said.


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Contact: Stacey Simon
SimonSL@upmc.edu
412-586-9772
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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