Paralyzed man moves computer cursor through thought
By Patricia Reaney
A paralyzed man using a new brain sensor has been able to move a
computer cursor, open e-mail and control a robotic device simply by
thinking about doing it, a team of scientists said on Wednesday.
They believe the BrainGate sensor, which involves implanting
electrodes in the brain, could offer new hope to people paralyzed by
injuries or illnesses.
"This is the first step in an ongoing clinical trial of a device that
is encouraging for its potential to help people with paralysis," Dr
Leigh Hochberg, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an
The 25-year-old man who suffered paralysis of all four limbs three
years earlier completed tasks such moving a cursor on a screen and
controlling a robotic arm.
He is the first of four patients with spinal cord injuries, muscular
dystrophy, stroke or motor neurone disease testing the
brain-to-movement system developed by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology
Systems Inc. in Massachusetts.
"This is the dawn of major neurotechnology where the ability to take
signals out of the brain has taken a big step forward. We have the
ability to put signals into the brain but getting signals out is a
real challenge. I think this represents a landmark event," said
Professor John Donoghue of Brown University in Rhode Island and the
chief scientific officer of Cyberkinetics.
The scientists implanted a tiny silicon chip with 100 electrodes into
an area of the brain responsible for movement. The activity of the
cells was recorded and sent to a computer which translated the
commands and enabled the patient to move and control the external
"This part of the brain, the motor cortex, which usually sends its
signals down the spinal cord and out to the limbs to control movement,
can still be used by this participant to control an external device,
even after years had gone by since his spinal cord injury," added
Hochberg, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature.
Although it is not the first time brain activity has been used to
control a cursor, Stephen Scott of Queen's University in Ontario,
Canada said it advances the technology.
"This research suggests that implanted prosthetics are a viable
approach for assisting severely impaired individuals to communicate
and interact with the environment," he said in a commentary in the
In a separate study, researchers from Stanford University Schools of
Medicine and Engineering described a faster way to process signals
from the brain to control a computer or prosthetic device.
"Our research is starting to show that, from a performance
perspective, this type of prosthetic system is clinically viable,"
Stephen Ryu, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford, said
in as statement.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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