A motor-degenerative disease has rendered Jan Sheuermann, 53, unable to complete even the most basic daily tasks. First diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration in 1996, Sheuermann progressively lost control of her body over time, and is now unable to move her arms or legs. But thanks to two electrical implants attached to her brain, Scheuermann has the ability to feed herself using a remote-controlled robotic arm. "They asked me if there was something special I wanted to do," Sheurmann tells ABC News. "And I said my goal is to feed myself a bar of chocolate."
In this experiment, biomedical engineers at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center attached 96 electrodes to Scheuermann's brain to read her neural activity. These pulses of electricity were then channeled into a brain-computer interface, or BCI, which allowed her to control the robotic arm seen above using just her thoughts. After 14 weeks of training, doctors are calling Sheurmann's progress and determination "remarkable."
The hope is that one day, this type of technology will find its way into everyday home treatments and grant people crippled by spinal cord injuries or brain diseases the ability to move again. "This is the ride of my life," said Sheuermann. "This is the roller coaster. This is skydiving. It's just fabulous, and I'm enjoying every second of it."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not.
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week