PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A paralyzed woman from the Pittsburgh area is among the first people to use their thoughts to use a robotic arm.
The woman, Jan, is a quadriplegic who suffers from spinocerebellar degeneration which has left her paralyzed from the neck down.
Jan is featured in Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes, sharing her contribution to breakthroughs in robotic limbs.
She volunteered to have sensors put on her brain, which are connected to a robotic arm that she can control.
Although she is not expected to benefit from these advancements in her lifetime, Jan told 60 Minutes that she feels it will bring meaning to her life.
“I’ve always believed there’s a purpose to my illness,” she said. “I didn’t think I would find out what it was in my lifetime and here came this study where they needed me. In a few years, the quadriplegics and the amputees, it’s just going to help.”
In the episode, Jan has enough control over the robotic arm to move it and shake reporter Scott Pelley’s hand.
A University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist, Andy Schwartz, has been instrumental in the robotic limb breakthrough.
60 Minutes says Schwartz was instrumental in the research’s beginning phases, when it was tested on monkeys. Schwartz is still involved in continued research.
The research is part of a military mission called “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” headed by a neurologist and retired Army colonel. The $150 million project aims to offer robotic prostheses for soldiers who have lost limbs.
The 60 Minutes episode airs Sunday, Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. locally on KDKA-TV.