Feeds

Finally – mind-controlled limbs without brain surgery

Neural-interface tech gives wounded soldier a hand (and arm)

Intelligent flash storage arrays

DARPA-backed research has given a wounded serviceman a fancy mind-controlled prosthesis without the need for brain surgery.

The bionic arm was developed by researchers at the Rehabiliation Institute of Chicago with financial backing from DARPA's reliable neural-interface technology (RE-NET) program, the US skunkworks lab announced on Thursday.

The tech gives the amputee, former army Staff Sergeant Glen Lehman, the ability to simultaneously control many joints in a prosthesis by thought, and does this without the need for brain surgery.

With the technology, he is able to pick up and drink a cup of coffee, drop and catch a tennis ball, and even intercept a falling piece of fabric.

He is able to do this via targeted muscle re-innervation, which reassigns nerves from a lost arm or hand to chest (pectoral) muscles. This works because when Lehman thinks of doing something with his arm, the nerve signals go from brain to his spinal cord, and then into the (transplanted) nerves on his chest, causing a slight contraction which sends an electrical signal to an antenna implanted on the chest, which then broadcasts to a reciever in the prosthesis. This makes it possible for him – and eventually others – to control their limbs with the power of their minds.

Watch Video

A further remarkable part of the RIC demonstration is the lack of bulky equipment. Previous tests meant subjects were either attached to power sources, or forced to wear bulky bits of equipment, as shown in this 2011 video.

RIC has been working on TMR for almost a decade, partly thanks to a major investment in neural prosthesis by DARPA. Last time El Reg discussed RIC, it had equipped a man with a bionic leg that helped him stride to the SkyDeck of Chicago's Willis Tower. Talk about giving someone a leg up!

TMR is getting a lot of RE-NET funding because it gets rid of the need for brain surgery – a priority, given the huge medical costs of fiddling with the densest and most power-efficient computer on the planet, AKA the human brain.

"Although the current generation of brain, or cortical, interfaces have been used to control many degrees of freedom in an advanced prosthesis, researchers are still working on improving their long-term viability and performance," DARPA program manager Jack Judy said.

"The novel peripheral interfaces developed under RE-NET are approaching the level of control demonstrated by cortical interfaces and have better biotic and abiotic performance and reliability. Because implanting them is a lower risk and less invasive procedure, peripheral interfaces offer greater potential than penetrating cortical electrodes for near-term treatment of amputees."

Other areas of DARPA-funded research include adding sensory feedback into limbs, so that amputees can have a faint sense of electrically mediated "touch". Also in the release, DARPA announced that researchers at Case Western Reserve University have used a flat-interface nerve electrode to deliver feedback to someone with an artifical arm.

Though RIC offers muscle re-innervation operations to the public, the bionic arm demonstrated in this DARPA-backed research is not yet available to everyone, but is being rolled out at various military rehabilation centers around the USA, DARPA said. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.