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Paralysed woman moves arm with brain power alone

A PARALYSED woman has used brain power alone to control a robotic arm and lift a bottle to her lips after a pioneering operation.

For the first time in 15 years, the woman was able to raise a bottle, take a sip and place it back on a table simply by imagining herself doing so.

The feat was possible thanks to a brain implant that translates thoughts into commands to be carried out by a free-standing robotic arm.

Doctors said the experiment proved that so-called "brain-computer interfaces" could dramatically improve the lives of paralysed people by enabling them to carry out simple tasks independently.

The 58-year-old woman had lost the use of both arms and legs due to a stroke. She and a paralysed 66-year-old man were the first to trial BrainGate, a microchip developed at Brown University measuring 4mm by 4mm, bearing 96 electrodes, which was implanted into the primary motor cortex, the part of the brain that governs movement.

The woman, who had the operation five years ago, said: "I think about moving my hand and wrist. It's very comfortable and feels natural to imagine my right hand moving in the direction I want the robotic arm to move."

Previous studies have used similar systems to move computer cursors and to control wheelchairs, but the three-dimensional arm movement is the most complex ever performed in human trials. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent