Neuroprosthetics Successfully Meet the Posterior Parietal Cortex

In a remarkable case from May 2015, a quadriplegic man successfully played a game of tic-tac-toe utilizing neuroprosthetics- specifically, robotically programmed prosthetic arms (Controlling a Robotic Arm with a Patient’s Intentions - Caltech News May 21, 2015). A trial led by Richard Anderson and colleagues investigated the capabilities of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) in executing motor function. The PPC plays a pivotal role in producing planned movements and receives input from the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems. These initial intentions are subsequently transmitted from brain to spinal cord and, finally, to the arms and legs where the motion is completed. Many previous applications of neuroprosthetics involving the use of small electrodes and brain wirings to record signals from the motor cortex proved defective, as such signals were extensively detailed and too complex. Anderson and his team have focused on simplifying the message. Using the simpler signals recorded from the PPC, Anderson anticipated patients would find the task more intuitive, thus yielding more successful motor operation. As soon as day one after surgical recovery, the patient was able to control the limb. Results bring great hope of improved quality of life for paralyzed patients. See: Richard A. Anderson, “Decoding Motor Imagery from the Posterior Parietal Cortex of a Tetraplegic Human.” Science Magazine May 22, 2015: 906-10.

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