“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”
Sumera B Reshi
A combination of modern technology and the horrors of war. In old days and recent past, combat injuries have forced doctors and inventors to create replacements for missing body parts, ranging from metal hooks to wooden legs. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, improvements in body armour, triage, and surgical techniques meant that wounded soldiers were three times more likely to survive than casualties in Vietnam.
As a result, about 1,800 vets came home with one or more missing limbs, prompting the government to begin investing heavily in improving those soldiers’ lives. The U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has spent $144 million since 2006 on prosthetics research and development, a project labelled “the Manhattan Project of prosthetics and its goal has not been just getting out of bed and walk but to get out of bed and thrive.
Oftentimes people with deformities natural or unusual are wrongly regarded as not being able to contribute to the society in any meaningful way. But the times have changed. Scientists are working hard to trim down any physical deformity natural or manmade by the innovations in the field of medicine. One such innovation is the naturally controlled artificial limbs. This innovation has, at last, come to the rescue of those who have physical deformities.
This new surgical technique was devised by MIT researchers which allows prosthetic limbs to feel like a natural limb. Now amputees would be able to sense where their limbs are and feel how much force is being applied to them through coordinating with the patient’s prosthetic limb, existing nerves and muscle grafts.
Prosthetic limbs are designed with usability and function as a central purpose. As an example, a common controllable prosthetic hand might consist of a claw-like split hook that can be opened or closed to grip objects or perform other types of tasks. This type of prosthetic device can be covered with a glove-like covering to make it appear more like a natural hand. Functional prosthetic limbs can actually be controlled in a variety of ways.
This new study was published in Science Robotics on 31st May 2017, where researchers exhibited in rats that their technique generates muscle-tendon sensory feedback to the nervous system which should be able to convey information about a prosthetic limb’s placement and the forces applied to it. Now, they plan to begin implementing this technique in human amputees.
Certainly, this is a bold idea to use the mind to control prosthetic limbs. Although the technique is new and will take time to get space in the lives of ordinary humans, the idea is slowly becoming a reality. This was made possible due to several important advances in neurosciences and robotics.
Indeed there is no limit to innovations nowadays. Researchers are claiming that they have moved beyond the prosthetic limb. There is another significant breakthrough in this field and that is building a prosthetic arm with individual fingers and those fingers could be controlled by the mind.
Furthermore, researchers at John Hopkins University have built a prosthetic arm, they claim has the ability to control fingers independent of one another using the mind. The experiment was conducted on a male who suffered from epilepsy and was therefore already set to undergo brain mapping to determine the origin of his seizures.
The neurosurgeon inserted an array of 128 electrodes over the part of the brain controlling hand and arm movements. The researchers then instructed the subject to move individual fingers, while using a purpose-made computer program to monitor which parts of the brain emitted an electric signal as he did.
This technology is surely going to attract the military in particular and ordinary people in general.
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