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New initiative to develop a system that controls prosthetic limbs naturally
Date:11/17/2010

tor neurons that were originally used to move the original limb. Instead of relaxing and contracting the missing muscles, however, the sensors would translate the nerve impulses into signals in optical fibers attached to the prosthetic limb that instruct it to produce the same basic movements.

Nerve stimulation, on the other hand, would be focused on sensory nerves that provide the brain with feedback about what the limb is doing and feeling. For example, sensors in the fingers of a prosthetic arm could be hooked into sensory nerves and provide the amputee with a sense of how much pressure he is putting on a raw egg, or any other object he is holding in his hand.

Although control of prosthetic devices is the initial goal of the project, the researchers envision that it will have much broader application when it is developed. One obvious future application would be treating injuries to the spinal cord, like the injury that left actor Christopher Reeve paralyzed. "I can't see any fundamental obstacles to developing fiber optic systems that can bypass spinal cord lesions and restore function in these patients, although developing such a system will probably take 10 to 15 years," Jansen said.


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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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