Jan Scheuermann, a quadriplegic, made history last December using only her thoughts to operate a robotic arm. The device allowed her to independently eat chocolate, shake hands and pick up small objects, thanks to technology developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Scheuermann’s participation began in February 2012, after two small electrode grids were implanted in her brain. The electrodes interpret brain signals and communicate thoughts to the robotic arm. University of Pittsburgh researcher Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., is excited about his team’s progress. “This is a spectacular leap toward restoring greater function and independence for people who are unable to move their own arms,” Schwartz said.

Scheuermann will work with the technology until February 2013, when the electrodes will be surgically removed. “This is the ride of my life,” she says. “This is the rollercoaster. This is skydiving. It’s just fabulous, and I’m enjoying every second of it.”