Quadriplegic woman uses robotic arm to feed herself
Published Monday, December 17, 2012 10:05PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 11:00PM EST
Feeding oneself may seem like a simple task. But it’s nothing short of a medical breakthrough for Jan Scheuermann.
Thanks to a robotic arm that doctors connected to her brain, the 52-year-old recently carried out the feat for the first time in 10 years since being paralyzed from the neck down by a mysterious illness.
“I just can’t stop smiling, it’s so cool,” Scheuermann said in a taped recording of her experiment. “I’m moving things -- I haven’t moved things in about 10 years.”
Scheuermann is the first quadriplegic person to be able to control a robotic arm with her mind. She began testing the device earlier this year when doctors at the University of Pittsburgh implanted two metal electrodes on the surface of her brain.
The electrodes then send signals to two terminals atop her skull which relay messages to a nearby robotic arm that responds to her thoughts.
"On the second day of our experiments she was able to use this device to reach out in space,” said Professor Andrew Schwartz of The University of Pittsburgh. “Nobody has come anywhere close to that."
While doctors have been experimenting with human-machine interfaces for some time now, the move marks a breakthrough in the research and could pave the way for medical devices that could help people with spinal cord injuries or debilitating diseases like ALS.
“The populations that we could apply this to might be as wide as our imagination is,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara from The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Scheuermann is currently writing a book about her participation in the ground-breaking experiment.
With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro