New brain implant technology has given a paralyzed man a whole new lease on life. Since a devastating car accident a decade ago, Nathan Copeland hasn’t been able to feel his hands and fingers. That all changed after scientists implanted chips into his brain to give him sensation through a prosthetic arm. Nathan can not only move and manipulate objects using his mind, but also feel when the robotic fingers are touched.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine. They believe the innovative technique could ensure future prosthetics include physical touch sensations, which is an essential part of holding, squeezing, and gripping everyday objects.
Two arrays of electrodes were implanted into Nathan’s sensory cortex, allowing him to manipulate objects with his mind. The revolutionary part is the additional two electrode arrays implanted into his sensory cortex. After a month, he started to feel “like I was getting my fingers touched or pushed.” He was also able to identify which finger was being touched when blindfolded.
Right now the implant is being evaluated by the FDA, as is done with any new medical device. The researchers behind the study are still unsure how the technology can be applied to become a part of a portable prosthesis, as the system now involves a separate robotic appendage, lots of cables, and a bunch of desktop computers. Nathan has expressed his excitement about the advancement, citing Luke Skywalker’s instantaneous, fully-functional hand replacement; he says such an apparatus could be “not even that far in the future.”
Via The Verge
Images via University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (screen shot)