05 February 2007

Ivy@50: Leigh Hochberg

"If Brown didn't have a fencing team, I probably would've wound up matriculating somewhere else."

And Leigh Hochberg's decades-long association with Brown University has brought him to the cusp of a major medical milestone -- enabling people who are paralyzed to control devices with their minds.

He's the principal investigator for a study using the BrainGate Neural Interface System on live subjects -- in this case, with patients who have lost use of their limbs -- taking place at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital. The BrainGate system is a 4mm square (baby aspirin-sized) semiconductor implanted into a patient's motor cortex, the part of the brain that normally controls movement. It then sends motor cortex signals to an outside processor, which translates the signals into computer directives. "The first person [with the implant] controlled a TV, opened simulated email, and transported a piece of candy to someone's hand with a robotic arm," says Hochberg.

For Stephen Eschenbach's full story, please visit Ivy@50.

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