Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Paralyzed Woman Uses Thoughts to Control Flight Simulator

Excerpts from A Washington Post report:

According to DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar, a paralyzed woman was successfully able use her thoughts to control an F-35 and a single-engine Cessna in a flight simulator.

It's just the latest advance for one woman, 55-year-old Jan Scheuermann, who has been the subject of two years of groundbreaking neurosignaling research.

First, Scheuermann began by controlling a robotic arm and accomplishing tasks such as feeding herself a bar of chocolate and giving high fives and thumbs ups.

Then, researchers learned that -- surprisingly -- Scheuermann was able to control both right-hand and left-hand prosthetic arms with just the left motor cortex, which is typically responsible for controlling the right-hand side.

Unlike pilots who use the simulator technology for training, Scheuermann wasn't thinking about controlling the plane with a joystick. She thought about flying the plane itself -- and it worked.

In the last two years, she has tolerated those probes better than expected; as a result, she's been the subject of increasingly sophisticated experiments in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, to determine just how much she can do simply by thinking about it.

It turns out, the answer is a lot -- which could potentially lead to life-changing technologies for people who suffer from quadriplegia.

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