Prosthetic limbs controlled by brain shall be a miracle for amputees
The saddest and most tragic thing that can happen to anyone of us is the loss of any of our body parts (especially limbs)! There are many people on this planet in every nation, who accidently, medically or unfortunately lose their limbs. That moment is not only a moment of suffering and pain but is also of a shock that changes the sufferer’s life forever (they never see themselves as the same or perhaps complete person). The rate of people undergoing amputations is higher in nations like Afghanistan & Iraq and also among soldiers of the NATO forces, since they are subject to war (and warzones have land mines and weaponry) that can severely damage their limbs and torsos, subjecting them to amputation. The second highest number is of those who are primarily suffering from some life-threatening condition like diabetes that can result in secondary conditions like gangrene, which requires amputation. Lastly, are the guys who lose their limbs in accidents!
For many years in the evolution of mankind, people have come up with brilliant ideas and have developed mechanical and robotic prosthetics which can function as a lost limb or at least be a bit helpful in place of the biological limb that existed before. Research is also going on in the field of stem cell research, which one day promises to grow back the lost biological part of an animal body but that day is quite far and even if dawns tomorrow; would be unaffordable for 95% of the human population.
So, what we have now for making the amputees’ lives better? Perhaps the answer may lies in a research and developmental project at the University of Chalmers. A new technology developed by Swedish researchers, promises to help amputees to control an artificial limb in a very similar way as their own biological hand or arm. The robotic prosthesis mounted to the bone and controlled by thoughts is connected directly to the person’s own nerves and remaining muscles. Max Ortiz Catalan, an industrial doctoral student has claimed that this developmental project in his University’s laboratory might be the world’s first truly advanced brain-controlled prosthetic limb development and synthesis project.
According to them, the brain signals in this process are transferred via the nerves through the limb stump and captured by electrodes. Then, these will transmit the signals through a titanium implant (OPRA Implant System) to be decoded by the prosthetic limb. The prosthesis is anchored directly to the skeleton by a process known as Osseo integration. Currently, in order to pick up the electrical signals to control the prosthesis, electrodes have been placed over the skin. A big problem with this technique is that the signals change when the skin moves, since the electrodes are moved to different positions. Additionally, the signals are also affected when we sweat, since the resistance on the interface changes.
“We have developed a new bidirectional interface with the human body, together with a natural and intuitive control system.” says Max Ortiz Catalan. In this project, the researchers are planning to implant the electrodes directly on the nerves and remaining muscles. Since the electrodes are closer to the source and the body acts as protection, so that the bio-electric signals become much more stable. Hope fully, if this research work comes up well, then many amputees will have a new experience in their lives, for this will replace their lost biological limb just as if a new real one.