WEDNESDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Two stroke patients who had lost the use of their arms and legs were able to use their brains to move a robotic arm, researchers report.
In fact, one patient was able to use the arm to grasp a thermos of water, bring the thermos to her mouth and sip from a straw on her own.
"It's the first time she reached out and picked up anything in 15 years," said researcher Dr. Leigh Hochberg, an associate professor of engineering at Brown University and the Department of Veterans Affairs, both in Providence, R.I., and critical care neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Patients do this "just by thinking about moving their arm and hand," he said.
"The real dream for this research is for people with paralysis to one day reconnect their brain to their own limbs," Hochberg said. "These are still the early days of the research, and there's a lot more research to be done."
The report was published in the May 17 issue of the journal Nature.
What is making this possible is an investigational device called the BrainGate neural interface system, which puts robotics under the brain's control.
The system uses a sensor to monitor brain signals and computer software and hardware to turn these signals into commands to move the robotic arm, the researchers explained.
The sensor is a tiny square of silicon about the size of a baby aspirin that contains 100 hair-thin electrodes that record the activity of small groups of brain cells. It is implanted into the motor cortex of the brain, where physical movement is directed.
"With that sensor, we are able to record dozens of single brain cells. We then decode that activity we are recording," Hochberg said.
The patients are asked to try to move their arm or imagine moving their arm and researchers record the brain activity and build a map of that activit
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