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'Smart' prosthetics: restoring independence to people with disabilities

PROVIDENCE, R.I. People with paralysis can stand and move without a wheelchair. They can operate computers to read email and play video games. Brown University neuroscientist John Donoghue said these recent achievements are previews of a major promise of neurotechnology restoring movement control and communication to people immobilized by injury or disease.

Were at the dawn of a new age of neurotechnology, Donoghue said. Thanks to advances in biology, medicine, computer science and engineering, we can repair the human nervous system not with tissue but with technology. Nearly 100,000 people have cochlear implants that provide a sense of sound to the deaf. Retinal implants are in development to restore sight to the blind. And there several systems being created that will help people living with paralysis. Someday, using their own muscles, people with paralysis will be able to feed themselves or perhaps even walk. These electronic devices will allow them to lead more independent lives.

Donoghue will discuss the fast-growing field of neuroprosthetics at a Feb. 15, 2007, press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the worlds largest general scientific society. At the meeting, held in San Francisco, Donoghue will take part in a symposium titled Smart Prosthetics: Interfaces to the Nervous System Help Restore Independence. The symposium runs from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Continental Ballroom 6 of the Hilton San Francisco.

Donoghue, the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor at Brown and director of the Universitys Brain Science Program, is a leader in neuroprosthesis research and development. At the press briefing and in the symposium, he will give an overview of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) systems that create a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device such as a computer or a wheelchair.

One example of a BCI is BrainGate, the mind-to-movement
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Contact: Wendy Lawton
Wendy_Lawton@brown.edu
401-837-6055
Brown University
15-Feb-2007


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