The Jedi Mind Trick No Longer Takes a Jedi
A recent research endeavor by Duke University Medical Center uncovered a breakthrough for prosthetics research. The study has only included monkeys as subject so far, but it is a great addition to the ever changing medical technology field.
The research originated on the notion that for a prosthetic experience to be authentic it needed to provide a two way signal. Firstly, the user of the prosthetic needed to control the prosthetic device with brainwaves. Secondly, the experience the prosthetic had in the environment needed to be returned to the user. Basically, providing a sense of touch. The second aspect is something very few prostheses have offered effectively.
In order to enable the subjects to feel what the prosthetic device interacted with, microwave sensors were inserted into the cortex of the subjects brains responsible for the stimulus.
The study started with the monkeys simply operating joystick to “touch” objects on a computer screen with different textures. If the monkey was able successfully find the object with a different texture, then it was rewarded with food. Quickly the monkeys understood the “game” and were able to successfully find the correct texture. It was a great break through in itself that the monkeys could process the textures through in microwave implants, but this was only the first part of the study.
Secondly, scientist removed the joysticks from the game and required the monkeys move the hand on the computer screen merely with their minds. While the accuracy diminished a bit at first, soon they were able to quickly control the computer hand to find the correct textured object. A true two-way experience between mind and prosthetic.
While the study did not include production of a physical prosthetic hand, this is an impressive first step. Hopefully this new technology is not far away, because it will change the entire landscape of the prosthetics industry.
Interest in learning more? Check out http://today.duke.edu/2011/10/monkeymoveandfeel
Thanks for reading!
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