Navigate Up

Video

Watch Dr. Wei Wang talk about the BCI research trial being honored by Popular Mechanics:



UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
For Journalists
Senior Manager
Telephone: 412-578-9193 or 412-624-3212
Manager
Telephone: 412-996-5852
Other Inquiries

Mind-Controlled Robot Arm Research Project Receives Popular Mechanics 2012 Breakthrough Award

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 4, 2012 – A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC research project in which a quadriplegic man moved a robot arm just with his thoughts has been chosen to receive one of Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Awards of 2012.
 
The magazine will honor Tim Hemmes, the trial participant who sustained a spinal cord injury in a 2004 motorcycle accident that left him unable to move his limbs, and a research team led by Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), Pitt School of Medicine, at an invitation-only conference and gala awards ceremony in New York City on Oct. 4. The project also will be featured in the November issue of Popular Mechanics, available on newsstands Oct. 16.
 
“When Tim reached out with the robot arm to touch my hand, everyone who was watching burst into applause and cheered,” Dr. Wang said. “It was an amazing moment for him and our research team.”
 
In the trial, a grid of sensors was placed on the surface of Mr. Hemmes’ brain and the wires needed to connect with a computer were placed under the skin of his neck and chest by neurosurgeon Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Pitt and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Research team member Alan Degenhart, a doctoral candidate in PM&R and Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, worked with a computer program to record neural signals from Mr. Hemmes’ brain while he imagined or observed arm motion. Those patterns were used to translate his thoughts to guide the actual movement of a sophisticated robot arm, which was developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
 
On Sept. 21, 2011 – the last day of a 30-day trial protocol before the brain grid and wiring were removed – Mr. Hemmes was able to high-five Dr. Wang, illustrating his ability to control the device in three dimensions: up/down, right/left, and in/out.
 
“If continued testing and development is successful, we hope that one day this technology will be able to give people who are unable to use their own arms greater function and independence,” said research team member Michael Boninger, M.D., professor and chair, PM&R, and director of UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, who also will attend the Oct. 4 event. “Tim’s successes in the short time period he had the device are very encouraging.”
 
According to magazine officials, Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards, now in its eighth year, are given in two categories: innovators, whose inventions will make the world smarter, safer and more efficient in the years to come, and products, which are setting benchmarks in design and engineering today.
 
“We are once again excited to recognize this year’s list of incredible honorees for their role in shaping the future,” said editor-in-chief James B. Meigs in the magazine’s announcement. “From a featherweight metal to the world’s fastest and most electrically efficient supercomputer, this year’s winners embody the creative spirit that the Breakthrough Awards were founded upon.”
 
People who have limited or no use of their arms who are interested in learning more about participating in the trial can contact research coordinator Debbie Harrington at 412-383-1355.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com