US: Man Uses Brain Control to Move Robot Arm

In the past, if anyone became paralyzed, they were likely doomed to not being able to move their arms or legs; however, through the help of modern technology a man who was paralyzed over 10 years ago has used brain control to move a robot arm. He was able to use his brain control to make the robot arm travel to shake hands, give him a drink, and play the game “rock, paper, scissors.”


Implants Successful in Moving Robotic Arm

Erik Sorto was implanted with two brain chips two years ago by the University of Southern California doctors. The brain chips allowed him to have the brain control over a freestanding robot arm. The experiment is helping to develop prosthetics that can be used via brain control to aid disabled people in getting their independence back.


Other Brain Control Experiments Being Studied Too

Over the past few years, scientists have been doing several of these brain control experiments to help the disabled. For instance, there have been people implanted with brain chips that allowed them to use brain control to move a cursor on a computer screen or to use other types of prosthetic limbs to travel a few steps or pick up something.

In the experiment at the University of Southern California, Sorto’s brain picked up the electronic signals from around 100 of his brain cells as he concentrated on things like reaching for something and holding onto it. He had to concentrate on what he wanted to do in order to get the brain control he needed to move the robotic arm.

It took Sorto several weeks of training to be able to make the robot arm travel and do the things he wanted it to do via brain control. It bypassed his broken spinal cord, which was destroyed in a shooting, and used direct brain control to make it operate.

Goal is to Make Robot Arms More Natural

The long term goal that scientists want to accomplish is to create a robot arm that is as natural as possible and moves more like a flesh arm. While in the past, they have concentrated on the study of the motor cortex, which makes us able to move things, these new brain control experiments concentrated on the posterior parietal cortex area.

The goal for the near future is that disabled people will routinely be able to be fitted with some sort of robotic arm or leg where they can use brain control to do the normal, everyday things that everyone else is able to do with their arms or legs.