Mind Controlled Bionic Limb Is Now A Reality

Prosthetic limbs have been in use for a long time now, enabling the amputees to walk again. But this new type of prosthetic limb currently under development by the Icelandic company Össur is something out of the future. It can be controlled with the mind of the amputee. That sounds nearly impossible but it can be done using implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) in the residual tissue of an amputee.

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How do we actually move our limbs? What happens is that the neurons that carry messages in the form of electric signals to and from the brain deliver them to the muscles responsible for that particular movement. In the case of this new bionic limb, these messages or signals will be received by the small IMES which are surgically implanted in the remaining tissue. These IMES correspondingly transmits another signal to the receiver located in the bionic limb. This received signal is designed to move the limb in the desired way.

The device also has the ability to understand and adapt to the walking style of the user. This means that the device would know when to walk, run or even go up and down some steps. It is clear that the device uses two major branches of engineering, namely mechanical and electronics. The combination of the two is not unheard of and is a separate type of engineering called Mechatronics. It has electronic components like the IMES and the receiver in the limb and has the actual limb which is the mechanical part.

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The President and CEO of Össur, Jon Sigurdsson, whose is the father of this brilliant idea believes that by adapting not only to the individual’s intentional movements but to intuitive actions, they are closer than ever to creating prosthetics that are truly integrated with their user. This announcement was made on May 20th, 2015 at the company’s Capital Markets Day in Copenhagen.

Dr. Thorvaldur Ingvarsson who is a leading orthopedic surgeon and also in the research and development team of this project is of the view that this bionic limb grants more freedom to the user. He said, “They (the user) no longer need to think about their movements because their unconscious reflexes are automatically converted into myoelectric impulses that control their Bionic prosthesis.”

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Össur is a multi-million dollar company with nets estimated to be around $500 million per year. They have previously created different types of bionic prostheses including Power Knee, Rheo Knee, Proprio foot and the Symbionic Leg.

Two volunteers amputees participated in the first-in-man research and were implanted with IMES. With the trial time now exceeding two years, the feedback received from them has been very positive and the bionic limb can be termed as an initial success. However, further clinical tests will be performed to make the results even better. The CEO of Össur is committed to innovate and help the people to enjoy “life without limitations.”

(Images Courtesy: Össur)

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