Todd Kuiken, a biomechanical engineer at Northwestern University, and his team are looking at how different patterns of brain activity can be used to control prosthetic limbs.
They do this by connecting the nerves from the stump to chest muscles. When the patient thinks about moving his chest muscles, the signals are picked up by the nerves that were previously connected to the arm and interpreted by a computer which relays the information to the bionic arm. This has the potential to give patients control over a wider range of movements than was ever possible before.
With conventional prosthetics people tend to lose control over their nerves, as they are no longer used, but with the new technology, nerve signals are becoming stronger. This could be due to the brain getting used to the rewired pathways.
Next, Kuiken's team wants to make the technology accessible to a greater number of patients. They plan to develop the system so it can be applied to less high-tech prosthetics currently on the market.
|Claudia Mitchell - first woman to receive a bionic arm. (Credit: Dayna Smith - The Washington Post)|