During the 2016 White House Frontiers Conference, co-hosted by Pitt, President Barack Obama stopped at the University's Alumni Hall to shake Nathan Copeland's hand — or rather, the robotic hand that Copeland was controlling through two tiny brain implants in his motor cortex. A second pair, implanted in his sensory cortex, enabled Copeland to feel the squeeze. The President later spoke to a packed hall about Copeland, who had been paralyzed for a decade, as well as the science behind the young man's ability to both move and feel with neuroprosthetics – a first-ever for a person with quadriplegia. “This is what science does,” Obama said. “Imagine the breakthroughs that are around the corner. Imagine what’s possible for Nathan, if we keep pushing the boundaries.”
"For us right now, monkeys are the appropriate animal model to understand visual-motor coordination," Pitt professor Aaron Batista said of the research that led to the robotic hand. "Animal research is really essential if we're going to be able to treat human diseases – cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer's. There no way other than animal research to treat those conditions. So, our goal is to put paralysis onto the list that has polio on it now, that we can actually cure it so it's not a burden on humanity anymore.