If you think so it will happen

December 01, 1999

An ONR-sponsored researcher at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia is developing pioneering machines that might someday allow paralyzed patients to operate robotic limbs by thought alone. By analyzing electrical patterns recorded from dozens of neurons firing simultaneously, John Chapin and his colleagues are decoding what neural activity drives what simple physical task, such as lifting a cup, and translating the information into directions that drive prosthetic limbs. Once the neural firing pattern for a specific movement is identified, the researchers feed the information into a computer that translates it into a signal to move the limb to the right position. In practice, the technology would involve implanting electrodes into the brain area involved in controlling the movement; however, the research would need to advance far beyond its present state for the benefits of the technology to outweigh the risks of brain surgery.

So far a crude version of the technology has been tested successfully on rats. The researchers are trying to repeat their success on monkeys, whose brains more closely resemble humans'. See the October 29 issue of Science magazine for a more complete description of the research.
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Office of Naval Research

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