Can brain signals can control prosthetic arms?

A new generation of much more sophisticated prosthetic arms may be available within the next five to 10 years, according to the MIT Technology Review.

Two new prototypes have about 20 degrees of independent motion and can be operated through a variety of interfaces. And one device, developed by DEKA Research and Development, can be consciously controlled using a system of levers in a shoe.

Separately, scientists at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have developed technology under DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 program. The final design, the MPL, allows for independent movement of each finger. In addition, the MPL is capable of unprecedented mechanical agility and is designed to respond to a user's thoughts.

The team is developing implantable micro-arrays to record brain signals and stimulate the brain. It will also conduct clinical trials to demonstrate the ability to use implantable neural interfaces safely and effectively to control a prosthesis, and optimize arm control and sensory feedback algorithms that enable dexterous manipulation through the use of a neuro-prosthetic limb.

"We will be working very closely with the University of Pittsburgh and the California Institute of Technology for their experience in brain computer interfaces, the University of Chicago for their expertise in sensory perception, the University of Utah for its capabilities in developing implantable devices suitable for interfacing with the human brain, and HDT Engineered Technologies for their skill in building prosthetic limb systems,"  Michael McLoughlin, the program manager, said in July.

- check out the Johns Hopkins release
- read the MIT Tech Review article

ALSO: Researchers have uncovered why the ostrich, and perhaps the emu, can run the pants off a kangaroo. It comes down to a literal spring in the flightless bird's step.The findings may be critical in the development of better prosthetic limbs and orthotics and in helping engineers design more agile and mobile robots, Dr Jonas Rubenson, of the University of Western Australia says. Story with photo

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