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Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm Begins the First Human Testing - featured August 4. 2010

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The world’s first human testing of a mind-controlled artificial limb is ready to begin. A joint project between the Pentagon and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the Modular Prosthetic Limb will be fully controlled by sensors implanted in the brain, and will even restore the sense of touch by sending electrical impulses from the limb back to the sensory cortex. Last month APL announced it was awarded a $34.5 million contract with DARPA, which will allow researchers to test the neural prosthesis in five individuals over the next two years.

We’ve been reporting on major advances in artificial limbs for a while now, but this is the holy grail of prosthetic technology. Phase III testing – human subjects testing – will be used to tweak the system, both improving neural control over the limb and optimizing the algorithms which generate sensory feedback. The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) is the product of years of prototype design – it includes 22 degrees of motion, allows independent control of all five fingers, and weighs the same as a natural human arm (about nine pounds). Patients will control the MPL with a surgically implanted microarray which records action potentials directly from the motor cortex.

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Tags: News of the Week Orthosis Newsletter PT 6 August 2010