Paralyzed Taunton woman moves robotic arm
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BOSTON (WHDH) -- A medical breakthrough that was partially developed in Boston is giving a local woman a helping hand, and drawing international attention.
The robotic arm is controlled by a patient's thoughts, and is changing the life a Taunton woman.
She’s the first woman in the world to test out some amazing new technology which may one day cure paralysis.
It was an amazing day for the medical research project called Braingate at Brown University a year ago, and is just now being reported.
A paralyzed Taunton woman is now using her thoughts to direct a robotic arm to bring a thermos to her lips.
“I felt a great accomplishment was made and I was thrilled to be a part of it,” Cathy Hutchinson said.
“It’s exciting for us. Seeing the smile on her face when she was able to bring that thermos of coffee up and to take that first sip -- it’s something that all of us on the research team will never forget,” said Dr. Leigh Hochberg, critical care neurologist.
Dr. Hochberg helps lead a team of 20 researchers from Brown, Mass General, and the Providence V.A. They're finding ways computers can help disabled people live more independently.
Cathy Hutchinson, 59, was the first woman to participate in the study.
Fifteen years ago Hutchinson suffered a devastating stroke that left her paralyzed. She can’t move and can’t speak, but is able to communicate through a computer.
“I have learned never give up. Leigh Hochburg will find cure,” Hutchinson said.
For over five years, beginning in 2005, a device was attached to Cathy's brain -- a key component; a tiny chip about the size of a baby aspirin.
“That array of electrodes conducts the electrical impulses from the brain out to a little plug that sticks up above the skin, we then connect that plug through a cable to some computers,” said Dr. Hochberg.
The computers decode the information and then tell the robotic arm what to do.
“There was no pain and I encourage others to participate in a future trial,” Hutchinson said.
The technology is very expensive, and right now it doesn't always work. But it's promising, and the research continues.