The two patients were a 58-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man who can't speak or move their arms or legs because of strokes they had years ago. The woman had hers in 1996, and the man had his in 2006.
In the trial, both learned to perform complex tasks with a robotic arm by imagining the movements of their own arms and hands, Hochberg said.
"In the future, we will record the brain in more than one place, to extend the movements, and as the research continues the movements will become faster and more natural," Hochberg said.
Andrew Jackson, a research fellow at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said that "it would be nice that these devices would allow paralyzed patients to move their own limbs."
Jackson also thinks this approach could be integrated with efforts to restore function through nerve regeneration.
"It may well be that some of these technologies may turn out to be important ways of rehabilitating a system. So, the two may be complementary," he said.
"Progress is being made," Jackson said. "What was science fiction 10 years ago is now starting to make translation into patients, but there is still a long way to go and hurdles that need to be addressed before it becomes a clinically useful device."
Another expert, Dr. J. Marc Simard, a professor of neurosurgery, pathology and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, noted that "this is a baby step, but a solid step."
There is tremendous hope for future development of this technology but it's not around the corner, he said.
"This is not going to happen tomorrow, whether it happens in [the patients'] lifetimes would be surprising," Simard said. "But knowing it is out there and these steps are a realit
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