Quadriplegic Patient Uses Brain Signals to Eat with Robotic Arms

For over 30 years, Robert Chmielewski has been a quadriplegic with minimal movement and feeling in his hands and fingers. But just recently, thanks to ongoing research at Johns Hopkins University , he was able to manipulate two prosthetic arms with his brain and feed himself dessert. Two years ago, Chmielewski underwent a ten-hour brain surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as part of a clinical trial to allow participants to control assistive devices, and enable perception of physical stimuli using neurosignals from the brain. Surgeons implanted six electrode arrays into both sides of his brain. Within months he was able to demonstrate simultaneous control of two prosthetic limbs through a brain-machine interface developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). The Johns Hopkins researchers set out to develop a closed-loop system that merges artificial intelligence, robotics, and a brain-machine interface. In the instance of Chmielewski serving himself a dessert of a Twinkie, the system enabled him to control the movements necessary to cut with a fork and knife and feed himself.