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 experience the sensation of touch through a robotic arm that he controls with his brain.
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“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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A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.