Picking up an object and moving it from one place to another might seem like an easy, everyday task. But for many people with tetraplegia, it is not possible. They have spinal cord injuries and cannot grasp, move, or feel objects with their hands. This is because the connection between the brain and limbs is damaged.
In a previous study, we made a device that allowed a person to control a robotic arm using small implants in their brain. Using their sense of sight, they guided the arm to an object, picked it up, and placed it in a new location. In this study, we improved this system to include implants in the part of their brain that senses touch from the hand. We found that touch feedback improved a person’s ability to complete tasks with the robotic arm. The time it took to complete the assigned tasks was cut in half! This is because the study participant could grasp the object faster using both senses.