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Man Wiggles the Fingers of a Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm with the Power of Thought (VIDEO)

First Posted: Feb 16, 2016 09:22 AM EST

Scientists have announced the first successful effort to wiggle fingers individually and independently of each other using a mind-controlled artificial "arm." The new findings could be huge for those with prosthetic arms and devices.

"We believe this is the first time a person using a mind-controlled prosthesis has immediately performed individual digit movements without extensive training," said Nathan Crone, senior author of the new study, in a news release. "This technology goes beyond available prostheses, in which the artificial digits, or fingers, moved as a single unit to make a grabbing motion, like one used to grip a tennis ball."

In this latest study, the researchers recruited a young man with epilepsy who was already scheduled to undergo brain mapping to pinpoint the origin of his seizures. While brain recordings were made using electrodes surgically implanted for clinical reasons, the signals also controlled a modular prosthetic limb.

Before connecting the prosthesis, the researchers mapped and tracked the specific parts of the patient's brain responsible for moving each finger, and then programmed the prosthesis to move the corresponding finger.

More specifically, the researchers placed an array of 128 electrode sensors on the part of the man's brain the normally controlled hand and arm movements. Each sensor measured a circle of brain tissue one millimeter in diameter. Then, the researchers collected data on which parts of the brain "lit up" when the man moved his fingers.

In the end, the researchers then had the man "think" about moving the fingers of a prosthetic arm that they linked to the signals of his brain. The man was able to actually move individual fingers simply by thinking about it.

The findings could be huge for the development of thought-controlled prosthetic limbs. However, more testing still needs to be done to refine this technology.

The findings are published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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