By Vivy Tran.
Reach out in front of you and take a sip from your cup.
Seem easy? Well at one point, such a feat seemed impossible to Cathy Hutchinson (59) who suffered a stroke that left her arms and legs paralyzed.
But not today.
A room of scientists watched in silence as Hutchinson took a drink from her cup. Mind you she didn’t use assistance, which was something she has had to do for the last 15 years since her stroke. Hutchinson only peered between her squinted eyes and used the power of thought. Moments later she saw her thoughts turn into reality. Just as she had imagined, Hutchinson took a sip from a bottle in front of her. A robotic arm guided by a brain implant called BrainGate read her thoughts and then moved to grab the bottle in front of her and let her take a sip. Meanwhile scientists of the Providance VA Medical Center, Brown University, and Massachusetts General Hospital sat in awe as they watched the power of thought acted out in front of them. Just like that, neural signals could then be translated to 3D movement.
Nature published these findings of BrainGate, a pill-sized device covered in electrodes that was implanted into the brain to record electrical activity.
The implications of this technology open the possibility for new engineering approaches for rehabilitation of these victims. And despite the 15 years since Hutchinson’s stroke, BrainGate’s effectiveness suggests that even in all of that time, the brain circuit remains intact.
Consistence and reliability still must be improved in order to more seriously consider this technology as commercially viable. However no one forgets Hutchinson’s remarks when she took that first sip.
“I had feelings of hope and a great sense of independence, when drinking from a cup,” Hutchinson spelled out to reporters. If that one sip can give her all of that, this technology is worth further investigation.