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Thought-Controlled Prosthetics

December 20, 2012

Prosthetic limbs are moving ever closer to life-like, thought-controlled replicas.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Thought-controlled prosthetics.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

This winter, several amputees will be fitted with implantable, thought-controlled robotic arms – the closest yet to the real thing.  Engineers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, including Max Ortiz Catalan, developed the arm. His team uses titanium implants to anchor the prosthetic to the bone.

MAX ORTIZ CATALAN (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden):

This is what is allowing us to do a permanent implantation of electrodes, which hasn’t been done previously for prosthetic control.

HIRSHON:
Existing versions use electrodes on the surface of the skin, which are less precise and affected by environmental conditions like temperature. Direct nerve input, on the other hand, allows the patient to voluntarily move the prosthetic more like a real one. Catalan adds that besides helping patients, the new prosthetics will help scientists better understand the connections between our muscles and nervous system. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Max Ortiz Catalan demonstrates a thought-controlled prosthetic. Amputees will, however, have the electrodes implanted directly on the nerves and muscles inside the body, rather than on the surface of the skin. (Oscar Mattsson)