Hope for Those Who Can't Use Their Hands

Electrodes provide signals needed to control prosthetic hand

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TUESDAY, May 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) --It is feasible that someone denied the use of their hands may one day be able to use their own brain signals to operate external devices.

A Duke University research team presented that finding May 4 at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

In their first human study of a brain-machine interface, the researchers determined that arrays of electrodes can provide the vital signals of human hand movements necessary to control a prosthetic hand.

Doctors asked patient volunteers to squeeze a ball and play a video game while their neural activity was monitored. The researchers determined which signals effectively predicted each patient's hand motions.

"The results of this study are preliminary, but extremely promising," senior study author Dr. Dennis Turner said in a prepared statement. "A brain-machine interface that utilizes neuronal activity to control a neuroprosthetic device could be life-changing for patients who suffer from severe neurological injury such as Parkinson's disease or for quadriplegic patients."

The team is working to develop prototypical interfaces that would let paralyzed people operate prosthetics or other external devices, such as a wheelchair or keyboard.

More information

The National Brain Tumor Foundation has more about the brain.

SOURCES: American Associaton of Neurological Surgeons, news release, May 3, 2004

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