SMU, DOD look to help amputees

Lightning-fast connections between robotic limbs and the human brain may be within reach for amputees with the establishment of a multimillion-dollar research center led by Southern Methodist University engineers. Funded by a Department of Defense initiatives, the Neurophotonics Research Center will develop two-way fiber optic communication between prosthetic limbs and peripheral nerves. 

The connection will be key to operating realistic robotic arms, legs and hands that not only move like the real thing, but also "feel" sensations like pressure and heat. Successful completion of the fiber optic link will allow for sending signals back and forth between the brain and artificial limbs, allowing amputees freedom of movement and agility.

Researchers at the center also envision man-to-machine applications that extend far beyond prosthetics, leading to medical breakthroughs like brain implants for the control of tremors, neuro-modulators for chronic pain management and implants for patients with spinal cord injuries.

The center brings together researchers from SMU, Vanderbilt University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas. Its industrial partners include Lockheed Martin (Aculight), Plexon, Texas Instruments, National Instruments and MRRA.

- get the SMU release