BrainGate robotic arm

Technology often comes together at the intersection of useful, important, and mind-boggling when it helps someone in need. Today BrainGate announced an invention that encompasses all three — a robotic arm controlled by your brain.

I constantly tried to move things with my mind when I was younger (see: five minutes ago). One day I was staring at the refrigerator door willing anything to move when suddenly a paper fell to the ground. Obviously, I was now magical and headed to Hogwarts soon. Then I realized it was being held by a crappy magnet that fell. BrainGate has made this sort of experience real. The company is testing technology controlled by the mind and that ultimately could help a lot of people with paralysis.

According to Reuters, the research team uses a sensor packed with 96 electrodes, which essentially listens to the brain. The sensor is implanted¬†into the “motor cortex” of the brain and begins reading nerves signals to perform actions.

A video released by the team shows a 58-year-old paralyzed woman moving a robotic arm created by BrainGate with this sensor. She thinks about the way her arm would pick up objects and the robotic arm moves to accomplish the task. The video starts off with her moving the arm toward pink targets that pop up at various points along a table. Listening to the brain waves, the arm moves up and down the table to reach each target.

After successfully hitting all the targets, the team gives her a coffee thermos. She is able to bring the arm down to the mug, move the fingers to grasp the thermos and bring it to her mouth. This was the first sip of coffee she was able to bring to her mouth without help in 15 years.

BrainGate, whose motto is “Turning thought into action,” is continuing the study with another individual as well. The team focuses on helping people with paralysis as well as those who are without limbs.

Check out the video from BrainGate below:

hat tip Reuters