New device may draw O&P closer to mind-controlled prostheses

A novel osseointegrated implant system may allow amputees to control a prosthesis using their minds, according to research recently published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal.

“We have used osseointegration to create a long-term stable fusion between man and machine,” Max Ortiz-Catalan, research scientist at Chalmers University of Technology and leading author of the publication, stated in a press release. “The artificial arm is directly attached to the skeleton, providing mechanical stability. Then the human’s biological control system is interfaced to the machine’s control system via neuromuscular electrodes. This creates an intimate union between the body and the machine; between biology and mechatronics.”

The percutaneous osseointegrated interface provides permanent, unlimited bidirectional communication with the body. An artificial limb can be driven by implanted electrodes in the peripheral nerves and muscles of an amputee. The implant also can be used to send signals from the prosthetic arm to the brain, researchers found.

During a 1-year period, researchers examined a transrdial amputee who was prescribed the new interface. Findings showed that the implanted electrodes provided more precise control than surface electrodes, regardless of limb position and environmental conditions. Long-term stable myoelectric pattern recognition and sensory feedback produced from neurostimulation also were demonstrated.

This technology is a key step toward more natural control of artificial limbs, Ortiz-Catalan said, adding that the next logical step is implementing the findings on sensory feedback. Researchers plan to treat more patients with the novel technology later this year.

“Reliable communication between the prosthesis and the body has been the missing link for the clinical implementation of neural control and sensory feedback,” Ortiz-Catalan said. “It is now in place.”

For more information:

Ortiz-Catalan M. Sci Transl Med. 2014;doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3008933

Disclosure: Ortiz-Catalan has no relevant financial disclosures.

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