Prosthetic limbs are a remarkable technology which only seems to be getting better by the year. What started off as nothing more than a not-so-cheap knockoff of a biological arm, has now transformed into a relatively cheap engineering work of art. Riding on top of this wave current of exponential progress, a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed a brain implant that’ll allow amputees to control individual fingers of a prosthetic arm using their thoughts alone.
Photo Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine (via Gizmodo)
“We used native sensorimotor representations of fingers in a brain–machine interface (BMI) to achieve immediate online control of individual prosthetic fingers.”
– Guy Hotson et al.
(Journal of Neural Engineering)
Photo Credit: Guy Hotson
Once both the motor and sensory data were collected, the scientists proceeded to program a prosthetic arm to move corresponding fingers in accordance to where the patient’s brain is active. When asked to think about moving each of his individual fingers, the electrodes wired to the patient’s brain relayed the command back to the prosthetic arm.
By using nothing more than a brain implant, prosthetic limbs are becoming more versatile by the year. Controlling a robotic prosthetic arm using your thoughts alone used to be extremely remarkable (and still is in their own right). Though, today, it’s become a common method of prosthetic limb production. Even the prosthetic limbs being developed using 3D printers are integrating BCI tech to achieve the same effect. And soon enough, everyone will be using an implant to become more interconnected with robotic systems.
Eventually these prosthetic limbs are going to be just as efficient as, or even far outperform, our own biological limbs. And when that happens, prepare for an influx of willing patients partaking in elective surgical amputations to replace their biological limbs for more advanced artificial systems. By then, the human biological substrate will become nothing more than a blank canvas. Our bodies will become subject of futuristic works of art, where scientific and technological tools, such as bionics, cybernetics, and gene-editing, are transformed into a modern equivalency of yesteryear’s paintbrush.