What’s the Latest Development?
By preserving nerve endings that have historically been removed during limb amputation procedures, researchers in Illinois have created the world’s first prosthetic leg controlled entirely by the user’s mind. “First, the team rerouted the two main branches of the man’s sciatic nerve to muscles in the thigh above the amputation. One branch controls the calf and some foot muscles, the other controls the muscle running down the outside leg and some more foot muscles. After a few months, the man could control his thigh muscles by thinking about using his missing leg. The next step was to link up a prosthesis.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Knowing the patient’s intent as he prepares to move this prosthetic limb has proven essential in developing a more life-like technology. The limb itself is a highly developed piece of machinery involving gyroscopes and accelerometers, and can be trained to use the information from these sensors to perform certain walking styles. With combined data from the body’s nerve cells, the prosthetic made the correct movement 98 percent of the time. Michael Goldfarb, who helped design the leg, said: “There’s a lot you can do with physical sensors but at some point you really need to know the user’s intent…”
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