Video: Helping a Paralyzed Man Feel Again


Nathan Copeland was in a car accident that injured his spinal cord, leaving him with quadriplegia from the chest down. Unable to feel any sensation in his arms or fingers, he chose to participate in a groundbreaking experiment: a trial of a mind-controlled robotic arm directly connected to his brain.

UPMC neurosurgeons implanted four tiny microelectrode arrays into Nathan’s brain. Then, he was connected to the Brain Computer Interface (BCI), developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, a team of experts demonstrated for the first time ever in humans a technology that allowed Mr. Copeland to experie​nce the sensation of touch through a robotic arm that he controls with his brain.

“I can feel just about every finger—it’s a really weird sensation,” Mr. Copeland. “Sometimes it feels electrical and sometimes it’s pressure, but for the most part, I can tell most of the fingers with definite precision. It feels like my fingers are getting touched or pushed.”

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Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.