Jefferson University Hospitals

Vickie & Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience

Can Brain Implants Improve Mobility After Stroke?

Cortimo™ Trial

Dr. Serruya & patient

Dr. Mijail Serruya with patient Aaron Ulland

A single patient will help Jefferson researchers learn if brain implants connected to a robotic arm brace can help stroke patients overcome abnormal movement and restore abilities.


In the U.S., every 40 seconds a person suffers a stroke. It is the fifth cause of death in this country and is the leading cause of disability. A stroke occurs suddenly when either a thrombus, blood clot or a vessel rupture causes lack of oxygen to the brain essentially causing the brain cells to die. As a result, that area of the brain is injured and may no longer be able to control a part of the body. People may lose the ability to walk, see, talk, or control their hand or arm the way they once did. Although treatments exist, they require rapid response and intervention after the start of a stroke and not all victims are eligible. Rehab therapies can restore some function, but improvements typically plateau in about six months. 

Research Summary

Now, Jefferson researchers at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience have initiated a clinical trial, Cortimo trial, using microelectrodes in the brain and a robotically-powered brace to test a method that could one day restore movement in parts of the body impaired by stroke and offer patients with long-term disability new hope for better mobility & restored function.  

Video courtesy CBS Sunday Morning


Recently, Jefferson Health performed this procedure on our first patient who had suffered a stroke two years ago.  Microelectrodes were implanted into the brain that then decodes signals to drive motor function on the powered arm brace allowing the patient to “power steer” his or her own arm. The principal investigator for the Cortimo trial, Mijail Serruya, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University, has been working daily with this patient for the past three months to train his control of the brain-implant in order to drive movement of the robotic brace that was fitted for his impaired arm. Dr. Serruya was also part of the team that implanted the first human with a brain electrode 15 years ago.

This study serves as a proof of concept and necessary bridge for additional studies that will pave the way for a future in which a patient with permanent disability from stroke can regain function.

Robert Rosenwasser, MD, MBA, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery and President/CEO of the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience, led the implantation surgery for the patient, along with neurosurgeons Ashwini Sharan, MD and Chengyuan Wu, MD. Drs. Sharan and Wu provide unique specialization in neuromodulation for epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Their expertise also includes intrathecal pump implantation for spasticity and spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain disorders.

The Future

This trial represents the first patient implanted with electrodes who can walk and lives semi-independently.  Many patients with this type of stroke often develop abnormal movements in order to compensate for what is lost.  Our researchers and neurosurgeons will help the patient overcome abnormal muscle tone while learning to utilize the implants to control the arm through the robotic brace. Dr. Serruya and his team of engineers and rehabilitation experts have been identifying opportunities and differences of using brain electrodes in a patient who is mobile and constructing solutions that will inform all future trials for fully implantable and wireless devices.

Many patients suffer long term disabilities from stroke and struggle with activities of daily living and simple tasks such as drinking a cup of coffee or zippering a jacket. The Cortimo trial and future studies to help restore function brings new hope for stroke recovery.  This could be game changer in rehabilitation options for stroke patients. 

Determine Eligibility

If you would like to be evaluated by our Jefferson Neuroscience Team to determine if you are a candidate for this or other stroke clinical trials, please use our secure Neurosurgery Second Opinion Portal to enter your information and upload your medical records and radiology imaging. When entering your information, be sure to select “Stroke Clinical Trial Evaluations” from the drop down list of conditions.

Please noteyou will not be receiving an actual second opinion.

Your records will be evaluated by our neurology and neurosurgery experts and a written evaluation as to whether you are a clinical trial candidate will be provided. 

To determine if you are eligible for this trial, or other stroke clinical trials, create an account:

Read more about this and other research and clinical trials available to stroke patients.