Operating a Robotic Arm with the Brain: A Case Study

Kathleen Shanfield, OTR/L, MS, ATP

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

California Institute of Technology

University of Southern California/Keck Medical Center

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


Invasive Brain Computer Interface (BCI) research on human subjects is being done in laboratories across the country. Research is focusing on evaluating safety of procedures and equipment, as well as to determine the best methods to use BCI to control a variety of devices. In this paper, a subject with quadriplegia who has undergone over 20 months of BCI training to operate a robotic arm will be described. Safety issues, the quality of life and satisfaction with the study, and the factors that have been involved to ensure success will be presented.


This study was originally funded through DARPA, and is now funded through USC/Keck Medical Center. I want to thank Dr. Charles Liu, MD, Dr. Brian Lee, MD and Dr. Christie Heck, MD of USC/Keck Medical Center, Dr. Richard Andersen PhD, Dr. Spencer Kellis PhD, Dr. Christian Klaes PhD, Tyson Afalo, PhD, and Kelsie Pejsa, MS, of Cal Tech, and Dr. Mindy Aisen, MD, Stephanie Hayes-Jackson, OTR/L, MA, and Barbara Phillips, OTD, OTR/L of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center for all of their assistance with this project. And a special thank you to EGS for all of his hard work and sacrifice in the name of science.

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