Erik Sortos(34), a man paralyzed for the last 13 years has been able to bring a beer to his lips using the help of advanced technology. This American father of two has been a quadriplegic since he was shot in the back. Scientists have been exploring how to improve on this technology in the last decade. Before Erik there have been other robotic prosthetics used on paralyzed patients but the movements were jerky and uncoordinated.
What was different for Eric Sortos is the part of the brain that was connected to the computer. Generally how the technology works is electrodes placed in specific parts of the brain, sending the signals to a computer, which interprets them and in turn converts them into messages to the robotic limb.
In previous trials, scientist have placed the electrodes in the part of the brain responsible for motor control. This time, the electrodes were placed in the Parietal lobe, which is responsible for the intent of motor tasks, resulting in smoother movement. Erik was asked to imagine moving the arm, and it successfully responded.
He performed several little tasks including playing a match of rock, paper, scissors. Technology has advanced to much, to the point where some older ideas from sci-fi now might be hard to distinguish from our modern day plain old science. Sortos was elated by the success saying, “I wanted to just run around and high-five everybody.” One can only imagine the infinite amount of possibilities to unfold in the not-so distant future. In the last few decades we have made strides, hopefully this technology will be further developed and made available to more people like Erik Sortos for more than just experimentation.