Tim Hemmes does a high-five with his girlfriend (Photo: UPMC)

“I put my heart and soul into everything they asked me to do,” he said immediately after his achievement. “I got to reach out and touch somebody for the first time in seven years.”

‘Seeing Tim reach out with a mechanical arm to touch his girlfriend was an unexpected and poignant bonus for all of us who are involved with this exciting project.

This first round of testing reinforces the great potential BCI technology holds for not only helping spinal cord-injured patients become more independent, but also enhancing their physical and emotional connections with their friends and family. It further motivates us to make this technology useful and available to those who need it. “

“Before the procedure, we conducted several functional imaging tests to determine where his brain processed signals for moving his right arm. We removed a small piece of his skull and opened the thick layer of protective dura mater beneath it to place the grid over that area of motor cortex. We then put the dura and skull back with the wires on the outside of the skull but under the scalp.”

“100% brain control”

“move left”

“He mentally associated specific motor imageries with desired movement direction. It required concentration and patience, but this process seemed to get easier for him with practice, just like when someone learns to drive a car with a manual transmission. In future studies, we also will test other approaches, including the participant simply thinking up for up, down for down, and so on.”


“We anticipate that these penetrating grids can pick up very clear signals from the brain to reveal what motion is intended by the participant. The second grid will allow us to see what might be possible in controlling the fine movement of the fingers and hand, which is far more complicated but also could offer more useful function for the participant.”