Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bionic Limbs: Coming Right Up

Researchers at the University of Cardiff in Wales have developed a neuro-electrical interface which they say they can plug into brain tissue and allow the implantee to directly control bionic limbs. The device is the size of a match-head.

In late 2006, Claudia Mitchell was the first "bionic woman." The arm sensed the movement impulses sent to a group of nerves in her pectoral muscles which had been "rewired" to serve the region where her left arm should have been. The breakthrough was achieved by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The University of Cardiff development, only a brief two years later, is a generation beyond. Building on research done in the United States in which robotic arms were controlled by monkeys via a "Brain-Machine Interface," this development means that, in principle, a person who was paralyzed from the neck down could control mechanical limbs with very sophisticated articulation. The American research has also established that computers could be controlled by impulses sent directly from the mind to a processor.

(Thanks to Doc in the Machine for the image of Claudia Mitchell)