Monthly Archives: December 2012

Paralysed woman’s thoughts control robotic arm

Jan Scheuermann

Unrivalled control of a robotic arm has been achieved using a paralysed woman’s thoughts, a US study says.

 

Jan Scheuermann, who is 53 and paralysed from the neck down, was able to deftly grasp and move a variety of objects just like a normal arm.

Brain implants were used to control the robotic arm, in the study reported in the Lancet medical journal.

Experts in the field said it was an “unprecedented performance” and a “remarkable achievement”.

Jan was diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration 13 years ago and progressively lost control of her body. She is now unable to move her arms or legs.

 

Robo-arm

She was implanted with two sensors – each four millimetres by four millimetres – in the motor cortex of her brain.

I don’t know how to say it any other way, [the movement is] way better than anything that’s been demonstrated before”

– Prof Andrew Schwartz University of Pittsburgh

A hundred tiny needles on each sensor pick up the electrical activity from about 200 individual brain cells.

“The way that neurons communicate with each other is by how fast they fire pulses, it’s a little bit akin to listening to a Geiger counter click, and it’s that property that we lock onto,” said Professor Andrew Schwartz from the University of Pittsburgh.

The pulses of electricity in the brain are then translated into commands to move the arm, which bends at the elbow, wrist and could grab an object.

Jan was able to control the arm after the second day of training and over a period of 14 weeks became increasing skilful.

The report said she gained “co-ordination, skill and speed almost similar to that of an able-bodied person” by the end of the study.

Prof Schwartz told the BBC that movements this good had not been achieved before.

“They’re fluid and they’re way better, I don’t know how to say it any other way, they’re way better than anything that’s been demonstrated before.

“I think it really is convincing evidence that this technology is going to be therapeutic for spinal cord injured people.

“They are doing tasks already that would be beneficial in their daily lives and I think that’s fairly conclusive at this point.”

Robotic arm
The arm was controlled by thought
 

Sense of touch

The field of harnessing a healthy brain to overcome a damaged body is advancing rapidly.

Earlier this year, Cathy Hutchinson used a robotic arm to serve herself a drink for the first time since her stroke 15 years before.

In both studies the results were achieved inside a laboratory so are of little help in the home.

Researchers are now trying to mount the arm on Jan’s wheelchair so she will be able to use it in her everyday life.

There are also attempts to give sensation to the prosthetic arms to restore a sense of touch.

In a review researchers Gregoire Courtine, Silvesto Micera, Jack DiGiovanna and Jose del Millan described the control of the arm as “highly intuitive and probably responsible for the unprecedented performance of the brain-machine interface”.

They added that the system was a “remarkable technological and biomedical achievement” and that such designs were getting closer to a point which “might soon become revolutionary treatment models” for paralysed patients.

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Morgan Freeman’s response to the Connecticut shooting

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed

people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

SO TRUE! Wise words.
UPDATE: Found out this isn’t Morgan Freeman. Still, I agree with whoever said it!
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Fischer: God Didn’t Stop School Shooting Because He’s A Gentleman Who Doesn’t Go Where Not Wanted

Don’t make me laugh.

Praying will not stop gun crime. Maybe, I don’t know, NOT HAVING GUNS WILL STOP GUN CRIME?!?! MAYBE!!!

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Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture. Biology and evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace re-etched in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science. Within this framework, teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse.

Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto

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