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Quadriplegic 'feels' again thanks to brain-computer interface and robotic arm combination

A brain-computer interface connected to a robotic arm helped a man paralyzed from the neck down 'feel' again, paving the way for next-generation prosthetics. NSF-funded research helped make it possible

A man manipulates a robotic arm via a computer chip in his brain.

A man manipulates a robotic arm via a computer chip in his brain.
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September 28, 2017

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From buttoning a shirt to grasping a cup, the ability to manipulate objects is aided by the sense of touch, which is why traditional prosthetics limit patient function.

Earlier this year, however, a quadriplegic man experienced the sense of touch again through a robotic arm connected to a brain-computer interface (BCI) implanted in his head that allowed him to “feel” pressure on the robotic hand. The blueprint for the BCI-robotic arm system came from NSF-funded basic research that looked at the neural activity of monkeys as they manipulated objects.

The advancement is paving the way for future touch-sensitive prosthetics.

NSF Directorate(s):
Directorate for Biological Sciences


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