News story

Soldier receives UK's first mind-controlled robot arm

A soldier who lost an arm while in Afghanistan has become the first person in the UK to receive a mind-controlled prosthetic limb.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Corporal Andrew Garthwaite demonstrates his 'thought-controlled' prosthetic arm to Defence Minister Anna Soubry [Picture: Sergeant Pete Mobbs, Crown copyright]
Corporal Andrew Garthwaite and Defence Minister Anna Soubry

Corporal Andrew Garthwaite’s revolutionary ‘robotic’ prosthetic, which was fully funded by MOD, was shown off to his peers and Defence Minister Anna Soubry during his final visit to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court today.

While there, Corporal Garthwaite was able to demonstrate how the mind-controlled prosthetic has transformed his life, empowering him to independently carry out a wide range of day-to-day tasks including opening doors, gardening and even cooking.

Corporal Garthwaite was severely injured by a rocket-propelled grenade on operations in Afghanistan in 2010.

He lost his entire right arm but was given the opportunity to become the first person in the country to participate in a revolutionary nerve transfer surgery known as targeted muscle reinnervation.

After 18 months of world-class rehabilitation, Corporal Garthwaite is now able to control movement of his prosthetic arm with his mind. Focusing his thoughts on the nerves connected to muscles in his chest he is now able to open and close his right hand.

Corporal Andrew Garthwaite
Corporal Andrew Garthwaite has become the first person in the UK to receive a 'thought-controlled' prosthetic limb [Picture: Sergeant Pete Mobbs, Crown copyright]

Anna Soubry said:

It has been an immense privilege to have witnessed this revolutionary mind-controlled prosthetic in action today. I am delighted that we were able to fund Corporal Andrew Garthwaite’s life-changing surgery and rehabilitation.

His bravery, commitment and determination are an inspiration to us all. I am committed to making sure our injured personnel get the best possible medical care and support.

That is why we committed £6.5 million earlier this year to provide our injured personnel with the most technologically-advanced prosthetics where clinically appropriate. I look forward to seeing many more developments to follow.

Corporal Andrew Garthwaite
Corporal Andrew Garthwaite learning how to use his new arm at a facility in Vienna [Picture: George Glew, Crown copyright]

Corporal Garthwaite said:

The surgery has made a massive improvement to my life. I have become a lot more independent and all the normal things I was struggling with have become so much easier.

I am now able to participate more in the kitchen – simple tasks like making a coffee, baking cakes and opening jars have made a real difference.

Published 11 December 2013