The Future Is Now: Brain-Powered Prosthetic Limbs

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With all of the adverse effects technology has yielded, it’s easy to sometimes overlook the exceptional.  In today’s case, that exceptional advancement comes in the form of prosthetic limbs, wait for it, controlled by its user’s mind.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), with an awarded $34.5 million contract, is at present testing (on human subjects), the product of its four year program.  Their hope was to develop a model of prosthetics that would use a “brain controlled interface.”

But Johns Hopkins is not alone in its efforts.  Their team is in collaboration with teams from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Chicago, the California Institute of Technology, and others to optimize chances of this project’s success, as each institute possesses different specialties.
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Michael McLoughlin, APL’s program manager explains, “The results of this program will help upper-limb amputees and spinal cord injury patients, as well as others who have lost the ability to use their natural limbs, to have as normal a life as possible.”

The developments made my McLoughlin and his team are remarkable.  It’s developments include implantable micro-arrays capable of recording brain signals, in addition to clinical trials demonstrating safely implantable neural interfaces that control the limbs.

“Now, in phase three,” says McLoughlin, “we are ready to test it with humans to demonstrate that the system can be operated with a patient’s thoughts and that it can provide that patient with sensory feedback, restoring the sensation of touch.”

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