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Paralyzed woman able to feed herself with computer brokered mind control

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 18th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder. 53-year-old Jan Scheuermann hasn't been able to feed herself for 13 years. Paralyzed from the neck down, Scheuermann has been able to feed herself thanks to a breakthrough in robot technology. Using mind-control, she's able to fed herself with a fluid motion that hasn't been seen in connection with such technology before.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers planted two 96-channel intra-cortical microelectrodes in her brain. After only two days of training could move the arm. After 13 weeks she was able to perform more complex tasks.

"The participant was also able to use the prosthetic limb to do skillful and coordinated reach and grasp movements that resulted in clinically significant gains in tests of upper limb function. No adverse events were reported," the researchers stated in the study.

"This is the ride of my life," Scheuermann said in the university press release. "This is the rollercoaster. This is skydiving. It's just fabulous, and I'm enjoying every second of it."

Professor Andrew Schwartz from the University of Pittsburgh says that movements this good have not been achieved before.

"They're fluid and they're way better, I don't know how to say it any other way, they're way better than anything that's been demonstrated before.

"I think it really is convincing evidence that this technology is going to be therapeutic for spinal cord injured people.

"They are doing tasks already that would be beneficial in their daily lives and I think that's fairly conclusive at this point."

Scientists will try to use the electrodes to stimulate the brain to create a sensation, or feeling ,which would allow the user to adjust their level of grip with the robot.

The ultimate goal is to have a wireless system fully implanted, so paralytics could use it at home without specialized supervision. The researchers also said the robot could be replaced eventually if the electrodes could be used to stimulate the patients own limb to move.

Ethical questions have been raised about the technology. In its article, Reuters reported University of West Scotland professor Andy Miah, who has written on the ethics of human enhancement, saying he considers these types of technological therapies a "back door" to "technological interventions."

"People will question whether this is desirable, but we already live in a society that tolerates such modifications," Miah said.

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