Rewired nerves control robotic leg


The power of thought alone is not enough to move inanimate objects — unless the object is a robotic leg wired to your brain, that is.

A 32-year-old man whose knee and lower leg were amputated in 2009 after a motorcycle accident is apparently the first person with a missing lower limb to control a robotic leg with his mind. A team led by biomedical engineer Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Illinois reported the breakthrough last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, including a video that shows the man using the bionic leg to walk up stairs and down a ramp, and to kick a football.

The major advance is that the man does not have to use a remote-control switch or exaggerated muscle movements to tell the robotic leg to switch between types of movements, and he does not have to reposition the leg with his hands when seated, Hargrove says.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that neural signals have been used to control both a motorized knee and ankle prosthesis,” he says.

Written By: Erika Check Hayden
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  1. This is a Golden Spike moment (perhaps I’m unaware of it occuring previously). Rather than the possibly endless pursuit of modeling technology after us, let’s redesign ourselves to adapt to it. Also, it’s never to soon to consider and [protect cyborg rights] (

  2. Just amazing , this kind of technology has been on the cards for a few years now , maybe beginning with the work done by Mount Sinai hospital on nerve transfer and transplantation? amazing to see , flabbergasted , great stuff 🙂

  3. The philosophical implications of mixing human brains and onboard computers are fascinating mindbenders in and of themselves, even if you do come down, say, on the materialist side. Since we are examples of naturally occurring, self-assembling organic robotics already, the prospects of melding our bodies with metal parts and silicon wiring also becomes a challenging and engaging engineering problem worth looking into. And it would contribute greatly to medicine once we learn how to use this to help amputees get back on their feet; it may even be expanded to helping people with organ failures and problems with their body systems.

    But I’ll be honest, my first reaction to this was just: “OMG! Cyborgs FTW!”

  4. Shades of the Six Million Dollar Man!

    When I watched that old TV show, I always thought, you’d have to be very careful if you were a cyborg, because the natural fleshy part of the body would be much less robust than the synthetic additions.

    If you made a sudden movement with your artificial, super-strong limb, wouldn’t it simply rip itself from its moorings?

    Anyway, right now, at my age, I’d be glad if my own bloody legs would do what I told them!

  5. I wonder what the power source is? Where, how heavy, and how long on a charge. And of course, when can one buy one? I think it’s about time to commercialize this. Time for Asimov’s U.S. Robotics?

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