Microelectrodes help Neck-Down Paralysis Patient to Move Robotic Arm

Advanced brain implants have been tested on a California based paralysis patient that can sense when patient wants to move his robotic arm. Erik Sorto, 34, became the world’s first person to have a neural prosthetic device implanted in a region of his brain where intentions are made.

A research paper published in the journal Science unveiled that Sorto became paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 21 from a gunshot wound. But after the surgery, he is able to move his hand, do hand-shaking gesture, play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ and have something to drink.

In comparison to last brain attempts, this time there has been a change as earlier implants were placed in motor cortex that deals with motions. In the experiment, two micro-electrode arrays were placed in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC).

Study’s lead researcher Richard Andersen, professor of neuroscience at Caltech, said, “When you move your arm, you really don't think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement -- such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, and so on”.

Only thing in your mind is reason behind to move the arm like have a glass of water. The researchers said that in the study, they were successful in decoding the intentions. The researchers asked the participant simply to visualize the movement as a whole.

In 2013, Sorto received the implants. Since then, he has been practicing to get perfect on them at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. Sorto said that he was able to control his robotic arm, which is not attached to his body, in his very first attempt.

Study’s co-author Christianne Heck, associate professor of neurology at USC, considers it to be an important research, which in future could help patients with different types of neurological problems.