Prosthetic-arm Controller Wins $1m Israeli 'Brain Prize'

President Peres grants award to U.S.-developed implant that helped paralyzed stroke victim serve herself coffee for first time in 15 years.

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday presented an award of $1 million U.S. dollars for groundbreaking brain research to a team from Brown University, in Rhode Island.

Peres wants Israel to be a global leader in brain research, and the B.R.A.I.N. (Breakthrough Research And Innovation in Neurotechnology) prize, inspired by him is a new award, handed out for the first time Tuesday at a two-day conference in Tel Aviv.

Titled BrainTech Israel, the award is billed by organizers as Israel's first international brain techonology conference. Ten candidates had been shortlisted, not all of them Israelis.

The Brown University team, led by neurosciencist John Donoghue, developed an implant to control robotic and prosthetic arms, in one case in a paralyzed stroke victim who was then able to serve herself a coffee for the first time in 15 years.

"Our laboratory investigates how the brain turns thought into voluntary behaviors and how that knowledge can be used to help persons with paralysis," Professor Donoghue explains on his website.

"We have translated our findings to a clinical application in which humans with paralysis can use their neurons directly to control devices."

The award, funded by private donors in Israel and abroad, is open to researchers from around the world.

Israel Brain Technologies (IBT), the non-profit organization that hands it out, hopes the award will showcase Israel as an international hub for brain research, and help position Israel not only as the "startup nation," but also the "brain nation."