A paralyzed man regains his sense of touch with the help of a robotic arm.
(Mirror Daily, United States) These are times when modern technology is revolutionizing medicine. Patient Nathan Copeland has partially regained his sense of touch with the help of a robotic arm and brain implants. A team of researchers made it possible for the paralyzed man to feel touch by stimulating the brain. This is an unprecedented achievement in both the medical and technological field.
Nathan Copeland is twenty-eight years old now. He had a terrible car accident ten years ago, which massively damaged his spine. The consequence is that he can no longer walk. His hands were also affected, as he can’t move his fingers. However, he still has motion abilities on his head and shoulders.
Doctors had a daring plan to help Nathan. They thought about implanting chips in his brain and used them to test the sense of touch. Two of the chips were implanted in a part of the brain in charge of motion, and other two are located in the area responsible for sensation.
The electrodes in the patient’s brain are electrically stimulated to feel touch. This is possible with the help of a computerized interface and the robotic arm. The arm was not implanted in Nathan’s body. However, the man can feel if someone touches the robotic fingers.
It took both doctors and the patient more than a month to get used with the implants and how to deal with them. The specialists decided to stimulate Nathan’s brain with low amounts of electricity and increase the dose gradually.
The electrodes were first tested before being implanted in the patient. Doctors had also done serious research about the areas where the small chips should be placed. They obtained the information with the help of CT scans and tests which triggered certain brain activity on the patient.
In order to observe the results of the surgery, doctors performed further experiments. They blindfolded the patient and activated the electrodes while touching the robotic arm. The success of the procedure was unveiled when the patient was able to identify correctly the spot on the hand touched by the doctor. In other words, when the specialist touched one of the robotic fingers, Nathan perceived the touch on his own fingers.
Nathan Copeland declared that he could feel sensations such as touch or pressure on his hands. Sometimes he also experiences an electrical sensation. The surgery brought new prospects to both him and the doctors.
The results of the remarkable procedure were published in Science Translational Medicine.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia