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The researchers increased the robotic movement of the arm by adding a sense of touch

Nathan Copeland knows a thing or two about brain implants. More than a decade after a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest, Copeland enrolled in a medical trial that helped him regain their sense of touch. The discovery saw scientists implanting chips into their brains that allow them to control a robotic hand. Back in 2016, Copeland flexed his new appendix with the fist of President Barack Obama. Now, in the mid-1930s, it has become the focal point of another scientific advance.

Thanks to a new brain interface experiment, Copeland was able to feel the sensation of touch when his robotic hand came in contact with a surface or object. Tactile feedback allowed them to grab and move blocks and cups in half the usual time compared to tests without sensory signals – from a median of 20 seconds to 10 seconds.

Copeland was already a professional operating his robotic arm. To make it even faster, the University of Pittsburgh’s research team has placed sensors on robotic fingers, including torque sensors at the base of the figures, reports Driven. The four patterns of microelectrodes implanted in his brain, meanwhile, read the commands of his movement and stimulate his sensory system.

Therefore, when Copeland passed or grasped an object like a ball, electrical signals from the torque sensor on the robotic hand would lead to the brain implant, which then stimulated the electrode attached to its corresponding finger.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

According to Copeland, his participation in past experiments and years spent controlling the robotic arm meant the new process didn’t feel weird. “I was already extremely familiar with the two sensations generated by stimulation and performing the task without stimulation. Even though the feeling isn’t “natural” – it feels like pressure and sweet tinge – that never bothered me, ”she said.

“There wasn’t really a point where I had the feeling that stimulation was something I had to get used to. Doing the task while receiving stimulation went just like PB&J,” he added.

The University of Pittsburgh’s research team isn’t the only one exploring the brain-machine interface. For evidence, just take the chips planted in Copeland’s head. They were supplied by Blackrock Neurotech, a rival of Elon Musk Neuralink which sells its hardware and software to the neuroscience industry. The latest experiment also had the support of the Pentagon’s Advanced Defense Projects Agency (DARPA). In addition, Sharlene Fisher, one of the researchers involved in the study, is a hardware engineer at Apple.

Although the technology is at an early stage of testing concept, researchers welcome the latest advance as a step forward for brain chip interfaces. “We still have a long way to go in terms of making sensations more realistic and bringing this technology into people’s homes, but the closer we can get to recreating normal brain input, the better we will be,” he said. -may author Robert Gaunt, associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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