Mind-moved bionic arm goes on display in US

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, February 17, 2011 15:57 EDT
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WASHINGTON (AFP) – A bionic prosthetic arm that is controlled by its operator’s thoughts and feels like the amputee’s lost limb went on display Thursday at a major US science conference.

More than 50 amputees worldwide, many of them military veterans whose limbs were lost in combat, have received such devices since they were first developed by US doctor Todd Kuiken in 2002.

The arm uses technology called Targeted Muscle Reinervation (TMR), which works by rerouting brain signals from nerves that were severed in the injury to muscles that are working and intact.

“What we do is use the nerves that are still left,” Kuiken said. “Muscle becomes the biological amplifier.”

Glen Lehman, a retired US military sergeant who lost his arm in Iraq, demonstrated the latest technology at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

“It feels great, if feels intuitive. It is a lot better than the other prosthetic I have now,” said Lehman, whose forearm and elbow were blown off in a Baghdad grenade attack in 2008.

“The other one is still controlled by muscle impulse, you just flex muscle to make it move, it is not intuitive. This arm is more trained to me, whereas the other arm I had to train to it,” he said.

“It does feel like my own hand.”

Lehman demonstrated for reporters how he could pinch his finger and thumb together, lift his forearm and bend his elbow, and turn his wrist just by thinking about those actions.

Kuiken said more advances, such as the ability to transfer some sensation to the limb, are being studied in the lab but have not yet made it to patients.

Other drawbacks include the inability to sense how hard the battery-powered prosthetic hand is squeezing, but Kuiken said scientists are working on ways to improve the technology with added sensors.

“Our goal would be to put sensors in the prosthesis to, for example, know how hard you are squeezing and then bring that up and have a device squeeze on this area (of the bicep) so the patient has an idea of how hard he is squeezing.”

Kuiken said the team has encountered some technological “challenges” that have slowed progress but is “excited about moving forward.”

A series of other efforts to test and improve on these mind-reading robotics, known as brain-computer interfaces, were also showcased at the conference.

Among them, how researchers can now place computer chips on the surface of the brain to interpret neural activity, potentially allowing spinal cord injury patients to control a range of devices from computer games to prosthetics.

Someday, patients who are bed-ridden will be able to wear a special electronic cap that allows them to maneuver a rolling robot carrying a video camera, so that the patient could join in the dinner conversation without leaving the bedroom.

But the stunning technology is anything but easy work for the patients.

According to Jose del R. Millan and his team at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, in a “typical brain-computer interface (BCI) set-up,” users send mental messages of either left, right, or no-command.

“But it turns out that no-command is very taxing to maintain and requires extreme concentration. After about an hour, most users are spent. Not much help if you need to maneuver that wheelchair through an airport,” his team said in a statement.

So now researchers are figuring out how to hook up a machine to interpret a user’s brain signals and read their intent.

Users are asked to read or speak aloud while thinking of as many left, right or no commands as possible. The technology learns to sift through the fray and figure out when a command has been delivered.

The result “makes multitasking a reality while at the same time allows users to catch a break.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RepublicConstitution?feature=mhum TruthRegimes

    The future of warfare. Un-manned drones blowing up people all over the planet, cybernetic creatures killing for the Military-Industrial Complex, and much more. Get ready.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but can it flip the bird to Cheney and Bush for cutting veteran benefits… oh, and also other treasons.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OD42K3ARU53PJTAZ3EFE5LRZMA nobanksnoborders

    idk, thats a little pessimistic and dystopian for my taste… I think we’ll get through this corrupt period and evolve in to a more sophisticated race.

    we all create reality. we have to take responsibility for society… so.. if you truly fear increased militarization and armament and war… then i ask you consider taking steps to prevent it. organize activist groups in your community. seriously. the great failure of humankind has been to not act on what they truly feel and believe. if everyone acted on what they feel needed to be done to improve the human condition and removed their support from the negative parts of society then the world would be a paradise in no time..

    just believe in your self and empower yourself. don’t expect dystopia becuase realize we’re all in this together and we can push it into a good world with our collective action/intent.

  • Anonymous

    I would really really like to agree with you, but after seeing how stupid Americans are by A voting in republicans again and B just being blatant bigots and haters… I just don’t see that we really have improved that much as a society. Yes we no longer have technical slavery but we do have an economy and a government that really is controlled by big business and either you work like a slave for these companies or you starve. Also no matter how far we have come in treating people fairly and justly we still have too many bigots, look our religions they still for the most part hate gay and lesbian people. Black people who were once treated worse than anyone in this country are now a major group against gay rights. People’s mentality now is “if it isn’t hurting me, I will just ignore it and someone else will make it right”. WE ARE ALL COWARDS IN THIS COUNTRY. Where are the riots in the street when people are being illegally evicted from their homes, dying in the streets because they have nowhere to go. Where is the rage over our military and the secret army we hire to kill innocent people in other countries? What about our rights being taken away? Why are we not fighting back? When people do finally decide that “if it can happen to someone else it can happen to them” will it be too late?

  • http://www.balmorheaprogressive.blogspot.com/ BaileyWuXiang

    Just think of all the masturbation you could do with that without ever getting tired and having to switch hands.