Now, high-tech prosthetic arms that can be controlled with thoughts!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

LONDON - Northwestern University scientists have developed high-tech prosthetic arms that can be controlled using thoughts instead of a motor.

After an amputation, the nerves in a stump remain healthy, at least for a while, and scientists are making use of this fact to create highly dexterous, thought-controlled prosthetics.

Todd Kuiken and his team at the Northwestern University is looking at how different patterns of brain activity can be used to control prosthetic limbs, reports New Scientist.

In an experiment, Jesse Sullivan’s-who underwent the surgery about eight years ago-nerves of stump were connected to muscles in his chest. So, when he thinks about moving his chest muscles, the signals are picked up by the nerves in the arm and interpreted by a computer, which relays the information to the prosthesis.

“If you transfer the nerves [from the stump] to healthy muscles, then you can amplify the brain signals used to control the arm. We can use those signals to control the device,” said Nate Bunderson.

The team has fine-tuned the system that interprets these brain signals, giving the patients control over a wider range of movements than was ever possible before.

Whereas most amputees seem to lose control of these nerves over time, because they are no longer being used to control muscles, in patients like Sullivan, the signals appear to become stronger.

According to Bunderson, this effect could be due to the brain getting used to the re-wired pathways. “Instead of having muscles interpret the neural command, we now have a computer trying to interpret the neural command and the brain has to adjust to that.”

The findings were presented to the Society of Neuroscience conference in San Diego. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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