Hopkins to Test Thought-controlled Prosthetics

August 6, 2010

Johns Hopkins researchers are developing a thought-controlled prosthetic arm thanks to a new contract for up to $34.5 million.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, has received a contract for up to $34.5 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the development and testing of the brain-controlled Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) system on humans.

Currently, the 9-pound MPL offers 22 degrees of motion, fingers that each move independently, and nearly the same dexterity and agility of a natural limb, all designed to react based on the user’s thoughts.

“We’ve developed the enabling technologies to create upper-extremity prosthetics that are more natural in appearance and use, a truly revolutionary advancement in prosthetics,” said Michael McLoughlin, program manager, Applied Physics Laboratory. “Now, in Phase 3, we are ready to test it with humans to demonstrate that the system can be operated with a patient’s thoughts and that it can provide that patient with sensory feedback, restoring the sensation of touch.”

The plan is to develop implantable micro-arrays for recording brain signals and stimulating the brain. The research team hopes to show, through several experiments and trials, “the ability to use implantable neural interfaces safely and effectively to control a prosthesis, and optimize arm control and sensory feedback algorithms that enable dexterous manipulation through the use of a neuro-prosthetic limb.”

Learn more about the project at the APL website.

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