Study Shows How Tetraplegic Subject Utilizes Brain-Machine Interfaces to Manipulate Prosthetic Arm, and Regain and Restore Significant Limb Functionality

Newswise — NEW ORLEANS (April 30, 2013) — Today during the 81st American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Annual Scientific Meeting, researchers presented impressive findings detailing how the use of brain-machine interfaces (BMI) and robotic prosthetic arms may help those suffering from upper-limb paralysis or amputation regain the ability to grasp and manipulate objects, and more actively interact with their environment to complete regular daily tasks.

Researchers implanted two 96-channel intracortical microelectrodes into the motor cortex of an individual with tetraplegia using multi-modality image guidance. Six months of BMI training were conducted with the goal being for the subject to control an anthropomorphic prosthetic limb with 10 degrees-of-freedom (3D translation, 3D orientation and 4D hand posture). Clinical measures of upper-limb function were used to assess the participant subject’s ability to use the prosthetic limb. The results of this study, 10 degree-of-freedom neuroprosthetic control by an individual with tetraplegia, will be presented by Elizabeth C. Tyler-Kabara, MD, PhD, FAANS, from 9:56-10:07 a.m. on Tuesday, April 30. Co-authors are Jennifer Collinger, PhD; Brian Wodlinger, PhD; John Downey, BS; Wei Wang, PhD; Douglas Weber, PhD; Angus McMorland, PhD; Meel Velliste, PhD; Michael Boninger, MD; and Andrew Schwartz, PhD.

The subject in this study demonstrated the ability to move the prosthetic device freely in the three-dimensional (3D) workspace after just two days of training. Following 13 weeks of training and interaction, 7 degree-of-freedom movements were regularly performed, including 3D translation, 3D orientation and one-dimensional grasping. The researchers noted that performance of target-based reaching tasks improved over time in terms of success rate, completion time and path efficiency. After six months, the subject exercised robust 10 degree-of freedom movements routinely in 3D translation, 3D orientation and fourth-dimension hand posture. The participant in the study also could use the prosthetic limb to perform a variety of skillful and coordinated reach and grasp movements, which resulted in in clinically significant gains in tests of upper-limb function. Researchers concluded that this study suggests that a person with chronic tetraplegia can perform consistent, natural, complex movements with an anthropomorphic robotic arm to regain clinically significant limb function.

Disclosure: The author reported no conflicts of interest.

Media Representatives: The 2013 AANS Annual Meeting Press Kit includes releases on highlighted scientific research, AANS officer and award winners, National Neurosurgery Awareness Week, and other relevant information about this year’s program. Those releases also will be posted under the Media area on the 2013 AANS Annual Scientific Meeting website ( Meeting/2013/Main/Media.aspx). If you have interest in a topic related to neurosurgery or would like to interview a neurosurgeon — either on-site or via telephone — during this year’s event, please contact John Iwanski, AANS Director of Member and Public Outreach, via the onsite press room at (504) 670-4910 or e-mail him at

About the 2013 AANS Annual Scientific Meeting: Attended by neurosurgeons, neurosurgical residents, medical students, neuroscience nurses, clinical specialists, physician assistants, allied health professionals and other medical professionals, the AANS Annual Scientific Meeting is the largest gathering of neurosurgeons in the nation, with an emphasis on the field’s latest research and technological advances. A record-breaking 1,003 scientific abstracts were presented for review at the 2013 AANS Annual Scientific Meeting, and the scientific presentations given at this year’s event represent cutting-edge examples of the incredible developments taking place within the field of neurosurgery. Additional information about the AANS Annual Scientific Meeting and the Meeting Program can be found at Meeting/2013/Main/Home.aspx.

Founded in 1931 as the Harvey Cushing Society, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is a scientific and educational association with nearly 8,300 members worldwide. The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to provide the highest quality of neurosurgical care to the public. All active members of the AANS are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Neurosurgery) of Canada or the Mexican Council of Neurological Surgery, AC. Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system including the spinal column, spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves. For more information, visit

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