WATCH: The paralyzed woman who moved a robotic arm with her mind
Jan Sheuermann can't move her arms or legs. She can, however, feed herself
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."