A new procedure called “bionic reconstruction” is allowing people with amputated limbs to actually control their new prosthetic limbs with their minds.
The procedure was recently carried out on three different men who have serious nerve damage. Each patient had their hands amputated specifically so they could get new limbs that they can control with their minds. Their hands were initially paralysed due to accidents which damaged the brachial plexus, a group of nerves in the hand.
The operation was conducted by Oskar Aszmann at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.
“Still there are some nerve fibres present. The injury is so massive that there are only a few. This is just not enough to make the hand alive. They will never drive a hand, but they might drive a prosthetic hand,” Aszmann said.
To prepare for the operation, Aszmann transplanted leg muscle into the arms of the patients to boost the signal from the remaining nerve fibres. He then allowed the nerves to set into the new muscle and grow for several months before continuing with the next part of the procedure. Later ,Aszmann amputated their hands and replaced them with prosthetics that are tied into the muscle with sensors and can be controlled by the mind.
“There are about 70,000 nerve fibres to a normal hand, and the majority of these are sensory fibres carrying hand-to-brain information. Only 10 per cent are motor fibres,” Aszmann said.
One limitation to the procedure is that although the patients are able to control the limbs, they still aren’t able to feel them.
However, there are already engineers who are working hard to figure that out.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.