For individuals with conditions like upper limb paralysis, the concept of restoring their natural movements and control over their bodies is incredible. Thanks to scientific research and technological advancements over the years, the steps that have been taken in the medical world towards making that concept a reality have been tremendous — particularly the development of mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.


Now, a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh has succeeded in taking the technology of mind-controlled robotic arms further than ever before. In doing so, they have enhanced yet again the realities of restorative procedures for amputees.


The University of Pittsburgh’s team of researchers has managed to take the maneuverability of the mind-controlled robotic arm from its previous seven-dimensional capabilities to an impressive ten-dimensional capability. The team of researchers has now made it possible for the arm to move in ten directions, rather than only seven.

These additional maneuvers include four new hand movements which all demand more precise motor movements — finger abduction, a scoop, thumb extension, and a pinch. These new maneuvers not only take the robotic arm to a whole new level of utility but succeed at bringing it one major step closer to behaving similarly to an authentic arm.


Although researchers have expressed that the new robotic arm is still not ready for widespread use, they continue to build on the development through ongoing research. By studying brain activity associated with controlling the arm and identifying the best ways to train individuals to use it, we move one step closer to public use.


Naturally, it would be impossible to discuss a medical advancement like this one without emphasizing the role that technology, science, and research play in facilitating such developments. However, there is concurrently a major role that communication and human connection play in making medical advancements a reality.


The fact is that each new medical development must align with the needs of the public. The latest additions to the mind-controlled robotic arm are the perfect example of how researchers have continued building on and adding to the same technology in order to more successfully satisfy the needs and desires of patients. It is something that would not be possible without the proper level of communication by those creating the technology and those for whom the technology is being created.


Furthermore, fostering a relationship between researchers and patients is also important in that medical developments rely heavily on trust. It is essential for test subjects and potential patients to feel comfortable working with researchers on studies that give rise to medical advancements. Creating ties through communication and ongoing relationship building can positively shape the entire process.


With each new breakthrough on the medical scene, it becomes increasingly clear that these developments are built as much on communication and human relationships as they are on science and technology. This is a point which adds an interesting dimension to the nature of medical advancements, just as one such advancement has successfully added new dimensions to the robotic arm.


How do you think the importance of communication and fostering relationships plays into successful medical breakthroughs? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi