A woman paralyzed from the neck down can now pick up objects and move them using a new robotic arm that she can control with her brain.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC have developed "the human-like robot arm" that is controlled by the brain.

In 1996, Ms. Jan Scheuermann was a 36-year-old mother of two young children when she began losing control of her muscles. She was diagnosed with a condition called spinocerebellar degeneration where the connection between brain and muscles start degenerating.

"This is a spectacular leap toward greater function and independence for people who are unable to move their own arms. This technology, which interprets brain signals to guide a robot arm, has enormous potential that we are continuing to explore," said Andrew B. Schwartz, Ph.D, senior investigator and professor, Department of Neurobiology, Pitt School of Medicine.

Surgeons placed quarter-inch square electrode grids with "96 tiny contact points" in the region of the brain that controls right arm and hand movement. Scheuermann was able to control the robotic hand with her brain. Within a week, she was able to reach in and out, left and right, and up and down with the arm.

The new robotic arm senses the intention and moves accordingly. The research now want to develop a kind of two way electrode system that can not only grab intention, but also let the brain know what the arm is sensing. These types of robotic arms can allow users to adjust grip strength to gently hold an egg or firmly hold a doorknob.

The study published in the journal The Lancet.