Icelandic company Össur, is engaged in bioengineering, as well as the development, production and sale of various orthopedic products and prosthetic devices, announced the successful creation of a bionic prosthetic leg controlled by human brain. The new technology uses a special implantable sensors that send wireless signals in embedded in the artificial limb of the microcomputer, allowing a person to manage it almost on a subconscious level, providing a quick and natural response and movement.
Prostheses controlled by muscle impulses, appeared in the late 1960-ies, however, this technology still has several limitations. Its operating principle is based on installing and using the skin with special sensors that detect electrical discharges and allow them to manage, for example, an artificial hand. The problem is that these sensors capture the electrical impulses not a single muscle, and all at once. This in turn reduces the performance of artificial limbs requires a great deal of practice to correctly handle the prosthesis. In addition, such dentures are very slow, inconvenient, inaccurate and, in the end, quite unlike the natural limb.
One solution to this issue might be the use of more precise sensors that allow you to control a prosthesis by thought of man. This method has already shown some successful results in the case of upper limb prostheses, however, with the lower limbs success looked not so rosy.
The problem is that to control the upper artificial dentures can be more conscious than the bottom. We use our hands to take something, to lift or to tie. In other words, we make a more coordinated action. But the legs we use to walk, and we manage them less consciously, in fact, at the level of reflexes, which are sent as commands to the spinal cord, not the brain.
For example, when we wear socks on our feet, then we don’t think about all the complicated series of movements that are performed at this point. We just pulled the socks under the influence of intuition and according to our reflexes. The legs in this case are doing what they should do. However, without this automatic control of our neuromuscular system, even an ordinary step over over the threshold to perceive us as a great achievement.
The new technology of Össur control of the lower artificial limb is developed taking into account compatibility with the range of her bionic prosthetic feet, knees and legs in General. These computerized “intelligent artificial legs” capable of real time itself can understand the need in different settings to ensure maximum comfort, speed and efficiency for a particular surface.
The basis of the management system of such a prosthesis are implanted in the prosthetic limb myoelectric sensors (IMES), developed in the organization of the Alfred Mann Foundation. The size of a matchstick, these sensors are implanted in certain of the remaining muscles in the residual limb. Located in the prosthesis a special receiver accepts transmitted to the sensor by muscle impulses and wirelessly transmits them to the microcomputer of the prosthesis. In this case, the complete system of artificial limb acts as a single cybernetic implant, which serves signals to the spinal cord. As a result, the person is not required to consciously perform certain actions to control an artificial limb. The prosthesis is driven almost on a subconscious level.
“This technology makes the management of an artificial limb more intuitive and integrative process, rather than consciously controlled,” says Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, head of a project to develop prosthesis controlled by the brain.
“As a result of the movement and the work of an artificial limb are more natural and easy, however taking into account the fact that this is an artificial limb. Now, a person is not required to first think about the movements that need to be done, because their unconscious reflexes automatically transformirovalsya in myoelectric pulses, which controlled the bionic limb”.
Technology during the year tests were conducted with the participation of two volunteers who are very positive about it responded. It is planned to conduct further clinical trials.
“Thought-controlled bionic limbs are a real breakthrough in a new generation of bionic technologies”, says Jon Sigurdsson, President and CEO of Össur.
“In adapting not only conscious control, but also intuitive action, we become much closer to creating artificial limbs that will really become one with their owners”.