Houston man first to use robotic arm created to assist stroke patients from home

Houston man is first in the world to use it

Richmond, TX – When 66-year-old Oswald Reedus had a stroke in 2014, he lost the ability to walk, talk and use his left arm.

“Every day is a challenge. I get up thinking I’m going to use my arm today and it’s not there,” Reedus said.

After regaining his speech and movement through traditional physical therapy, he is now the first stroke patient in the world to use a robotic arm controlled by his brainwaves to try and recover motion in his left arm. His left arm remains significantly weaker.

“I’m looking forward to people regaining their strength on their weak side,” Reedus said about contributing to this scientific study.

Neuro technologies (like exoskeletons) are normally limited to the lab or clinic and are very expensive. Inventor, Jose Luis “Pepe” Contreras-Vidal, said his team hopes this will change that since this brain-controlled robotic arm requires no surgery and is accessible at home.

How does it work?

Contreras-Vidal said the machine is able to work by reading the brain waves firing while the patient wears a special helmet.

For example, a therapist would instruct the patient to move their arm. The patient then thinks about moving their arm. In time, the computer recognizes the brain activity happening at that moment and associates it with the action. Eventually, upon recognizing that brain activity, the machine can intuitively match what the patient is thinking.

“There are patterns in that information that relates to our behavior: Actions, thoughts, feelings, sensations,” Contreras-Vidal said. “We teach computers to learn to identify specific patterns that are related to their actions. In this case, movement of the upper limb.”

Reedus said he’s been doing this kind of exercise regularly for six weeks and is making big improvements. He’s excited to now start meeting his goals.

“My goal in life now is to even hold my grandkids or hug them - a bear hug - a big bear hug!” he said.