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Brain implant designed for prosthesis

by Mike Hoffman on March 23, 2013

The pursuit to develop a bionic arm that can connect to the human brain took a step forward with the Tuesday announcement that National Institutes of Health scientists had developed a wireless brain implant that operates a prosthesis.

The implant translates the electronic activity sparked by the brain and turns it into a digital signal that can move the prosthesis. The key, though, is that the implant is wireless and connects directly to the prosthesis without the need of additional wires.

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency started the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in 2006 and have made major advances in prosthesis technology. Operating a prosthetic arm or leg naturally with a simple thought has been a goal of the program.

DARPA had developed a hard wired connection that required wires that ran from the head to a computer and then more wires to the prosthesis. A wireless connection directly to a bionic arm or leg would provide a much more streamlined design.

The 2-inch titanium implant communicates with the prosthesis with electromagnectic signals. It recharges itself through induction.

NIH scientists have tested the wireless brain implant on pigs and rhesus monkeys for more than a year. Military Times broke the story on Wednesday.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

blight_ March 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

NIH is going to take a beating because the JSF is more important.

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DavidLight March 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Sad but true. May be time to rethink priorities….

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blight_ March 23, 2013 at 3:47 pm

It's sad, but true.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

So now we have the capability to hard wire a brain to a non human body part. I wonder what the training regime is for these hardened veterans. Must be long and intense. Honestly, this is what DARPA should be doing. Making medical strides like this. Go team DARPA!

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Belesari March 24, 2013 at 12:34 am

Saw a video years ago with a man using the first one of these. Wasn't implanted but the guy hadn't been able to feed himself sense he lost both arms in vietnam.

Well the guy was able to use these fast and like any other because they follow the same paths as the original. Your brain gets to understand it. Basically it rewires itself.

Hell they can get a monkey to do it quickly.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 11:23 am

Hmm. Well if you can just strap yourself in and get going, then this may be the future of prosthesis. That is until we can biologically grow a new body part.

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specs004 March 11, 2014 at 9:15 am

good luck on that. cross-species or even stem cells arent all that close

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aaothead March 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Having lost a leg I find this very interesting, though no doubt I'm too old for it to develop in time for me. But good news anyway.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hey, anything is possible. The only thing required is for this tech to be easy to manufacture and implement.

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blight_ March 23, 2013 at 7:41 pm

You missed a fun tidbit about the guys at Duke who connected two mouse brains together, and transmitted information from one brain to the other.

Now /that's/ something. There's a generation of young soldiers who will hopefully get something better than a plastic prostheses.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Yeah, in the end, I think just making a completely new arm out of organic materials will be the safest and best best of the future. A prostheses can't function as well as a regular hand, at least, not yet. Biological prostheses, though, could recreate human body parts. That would be cool.

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d. kellogg March 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Well,
media gurus and political pundits and all the naysayers can downplay the justification and sense of it all for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars all they want,
but the reality is,
the prosthetics technology , burn care, and brain injury fields of medical science has NEVER progressed at a faster pace.
All of these will have longer term benefit in the civilian sector than the anti-war baglicks will ever give credit for.

We saw similarities coming out of WW2 as well: the technology curve spurred on by warfare development has led to greater civilian sector benefits than the peaceniks care to recognize.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Well that is true. A lot of common things we take granted today have origins in the military. Like duct tape. Or duck tape. Whatever. Medicine such as blood transfusions and penicillin found root from the needs of the military.

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Bradford March 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Yeah, but I'd RATHER have SLOWER medical miracle development, and fewer flag-draped caskets…More friends around the world, and fewer enemies…
I thought your Bush-god said we went to Iraq for "WMD's"…I didn't know that meant
"Wonderous Medical Devices"….
&To ALL my Wounded Warrior Bros & sisters, "Thank-you for your Service, and
WELCOME HOME!"…What more can I do to help you?…

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yesjb March 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

This is just the beginning folks!
Remember the Apple II….and now…!
The prostheses will get better as will the ways to communicate with them.
And with further research a way to regrow nerve tissue and even limbs will become a reality.
Perhaps not everything is possible, but it's certainly worth trying!

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USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Well. Difference between Apple and DARPA is that DARPA is conducting research and development of future tech. Apple is making future tech, but mostly in the department of personal computers. Kinda hard to make a comparison there. Things in medicine take time, like getting over the flu, or getting tech like this to work. The beginning? Definitely. But the end is a LONG ways away.

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oktoberskyy March 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Big E. I agree with you that DARPA is doing a great thing, I also agree on your point that out of terrible things, good things can emerge.
I think that the missing link here is the DNA and stem cell research to be able to regrow / regenerate body parts that have been lost.
Is it possible? anything is possible as long as it is not done with black market Chinese technology.

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USS ENTERPRISE March 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I am sure it is possible. But the trouble is all the pesky environmental and animal rights activists. I swear all the want is the steady loss of scientific knowledge based on animals and the environment because they wrongly think that we kill plants and animals for no reason. I am sure that progress in "regenerating" new limbs and fledglings and, eventually, organs is far, just lacking funding. As for China coming up with such tech, I HIGHLY doubt it. Their labor force simply don't have the expertise to make such equipment, as sterilization and quality aren't easy to find in the Chinese sweatshops.

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Bradford March 27, 2013 at 8:15 pm

…what OTHER kind of ChiCommie Tech IS there?…lol…

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SFP May 23, 2013 at 2:28 am

Saw a video years ago with a man using the first one of these. Wasn’t implanted but the guy hadn’t been able to feed himself sense he lost both arms in vietnam.

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