BETHESDA, Md. − Motorized prosthetic arms can help amputees regain some function, but these devices take time to learn to use and are limited in the number of movements they provide.
Todd A. Kuiken, M.D., Ph.D., a physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and professor at Northwestern University, has pioneered a technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), which allows a prosthetic arm to respond directly to the brains signals, making it much easier to use than traditional motorized prosthetics. This technique, still under development, allows wearers to open and close their artificial hands and bend and straighten their artificial elbows nearly as naturally as their own arms.
The idea is that when you lose your arm, you lose the motors, the muscles and the structural elements of the bones, Kuiken explained. But the control information should still be there in the residual nerves. He decided to take the residual nerves, which once carried the commands from the brain to produce arm, wrist and hand movements, and connect them to the chest muscles so that the signals can be used to move the artificial limb.
Nearly a dozen patients who have undergone TMR so far have motorized prosthetic arms that produce two arm movements: open and close hand and bend and straighten elbow. But in a new study from the Journal of Neurophysiology, published by The American Physiological Society, Kuiken and his colleagues demonstrate that TMR has the potential to provide an even greater number of arm and hand movements, beyond the four theyve already achieved. The researchers have begun work with two U.S. Army medical centers to help soldiers who have lost limbs.
The study, entitled Decoding a new neural-machine interface for control of artificial limbs, was conducted by Ping Zhou, Madeleine M. Lowery, Kevin B. Englehart, He Huang, Guanglin Li, Levi Hargrove, Julius P.A. Dewald and Kuiken, all of Northwestern University
|Contact: Christine Guilfoy|
American Physiological Society