Amputees Can Control Robotic Arm Using Brain Machine Interface

Amputees Can Control Robotic Arm Using Brain Machine Interface

According to a research published in the Nature Communications, in November 2017, amputees can learn to control a robotic limb through electrodes implanted in their brain.

Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago, conducted experiments showing how paralyzed patients can move their robotic limbs using a brain machine interface. “That’s the novel aspect to this study, seeing that chronic, long-term amputees can learn to control a robotic limb,” said Nicho Hatsopoulos, professor of organismal biology at Chicago and author of the study. “But what was also interesting was the brain’s plasticity over long-term exposure, and seeing what happened to the connectivity of the network as they learned to control the device.”

The experiments were conducted on three rhesus monkeys who suffered injuries at a young age and had to have an arm amputated. Electrodes were implanted in two of the animals at the side of the collateral limb. This side was used to control the amputated limb. In the third animal, the electrodes were implanted on the same side of the amputated limb. This side still controlled the intact limb.

The monkeys were trained to move a robotic arm and grasp a ball using only their thoughts. The activity was recorded a statistical model was used to calculate how the neurons were connected to each other before the experiment, during training, and after mastered the skill.

Results showed that the connections between neurons on the side that controlled the amputated arm became robust and dense in areas used for reaching and grasping.

On the side that was controlling the intact arm, the connections were pruned and the networks thinned, before rebuilding into a new, dense network.

This indicated that the connections were shedding off as the animal made attempts to learn the new task, as there already was a network controlling the same behavior. However, few days post training, it showed signs of rebuilding into a new network that had the ability of controlling the intact as well as the neuroprosthetic limb

The team of researchers further plans to equip neuroprosthetic limbs with sensory feedback of touch and proprioception. This would help in identify the location of the limb.

This development has the potential of creating responsive neuroprosthetic limbs that allows people to move and receive sensations through the brain machine interface.

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