Kristin Houser
on May 23, 2018
263 Salamanders, starfish, and spiders all have the same superpower: they can regrow their limbs. Sadly, humans cannot (yet), which means people with amputations have no alternative but to rely on prostheses.

While today’s artificial limbs are far better than those used back in the day, they still have their drawbacks. However, one of those shortcomings might soon be largely eliminated thanks to new research by the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They published their study in the journal IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering on Friday. The ultimate goal with prostheses is to enable the wearer to do everything they could with an organic limb, and just as easily.

That means finding a way to translate the wearer’s thoughts into action in the limb — for example, the user thinks about picking up a cup, and the prosthesis picks up the cup. Most developers rely on machine learning to enable this communication between the brain and a prosthesis.

Because the brain of a person with an amputation still thinks the missing limb is intact, it still sends the same signals down to the muscles. By mentally making one motion over and over again, the person can “teach” their prosthetic limb to recognize patterns in muscle activity and respond accordingly. Read more from…

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