LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Scientists at Keck Medicine of USC have perfected a brain implant which helps people who have lost their limbs or are paralyzed to move a robotic arm by sensing intention. Erik Sorto is the first individual to have this neural prosthetic device implanted in the area of the brain where intentions are made.
Erik Sorto was paralyzed neck down after an accidental gunshot injury. However due to this revolutionary new technology Sorto can now shake hands, make gestures, hold a mug of beer and can even play “rock, paper, scissors”, courtesy his new prosthetic arm which he can manipulate with his thoughts.
Earlier attempts were made by using implants placed in the motor cortex which controlled motion. In the present experiment implants were placed in the PPC or posterior parietal cortex. PPC is a part of the brain which process plans for movements which includes reaching and grasping.
Implants which have been planted in Sorto’s PPC enable him to use a robotic arm to perform a number of simple tasks. However experts say that the technology needs fine tuning and there is also a need for the computer programs to run faster before they can change the daily lives of paralyzed people.
The implants which were actually chips were implanted in Sorto’s brain by doctors in California about two years ago. These chips had the ability to decode Sorto’s thoughts to move the free-standing robotic arm. The 34 year old is now working with his researchers and occupational therapists to put into practice and fine-tune his movements.
It is the latest endeavor to create prosthetics which could be controlled by the mind. The latest method could afford the differently-abled persons a fair degree of freedom and ability to do common tasks independently. In the past persons outfitted with brain implants fitted have used mind power to control a computer cursor. This is the first time that a person has used his mid to control and steer prosthetic limbs.