Science

Human with robotic hands shake their artificial fingers with their mind

Amputated patients have the ability to control and manipulate their artificial fingers in real time with precision, speed and complexity, thanks to new technology developed in the US that interconnects the remaining nerves with a prosthetic robotic hand.

This is an important step forward in the field of mind-controlled neurodegeneration. The new brain-machine interface utilizes the latent signals from the patient’s arm nerves and amplifies them to transmit – with the help of artificial intelligence (machine learning) algorithms – the motion in the artificial hand, named Mobius Bionics Luke, achieving accurate finger control.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, led by Professor Paul Sterna of Plastic Surgery, published in the American medical journal Science Translational Medicine. The research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the US Pentagon’s Advanced Defense Research Programs Service (DARPA), as reported by AMP.

“It’s been the biggest advancement in traffic control for people with cripples for many years. We developed a technique that provides personalized finger control of the prosthetic device, using the nerves at the patient’s remaining end. We have thus achieved the most advanced prosthetic test in the world, “said Sterna.

“You can do many things with one prosthetic hand, but that doesn’t mean that you really control it with your mind. What makes the difference, and our approach, is that the patient achieves control first and only by thinking about the movement he wants to make. Patients have nothing to learn, all our learning is done by our algorithms. This is different from other methods, “said Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Cindy Chestek of the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

The new technology, tested on four amputated patients, allowed them to do difficult things with their artificial hand, such as grabbing objects, lifting small spherical objects, and even playing “stone-scissors-paper”. “It’s like you’ve got your hand again. You can do almost anything you did with a real hand, which gives you a sense of normalcy again, “said one of the participants, Joe Hamilton, who lost his hand in a fireworks accident in 2013.

A central difficulty in the brain-machine interfaces is to have a strong and stable signal from the nerves to the bionic end. This is accomplished by the new method, wrapping tiny muscle grafts around the nerve endings in the remaining upper extremity. These so-called “regenerative peripheral nerve interfaces” regenerate and develop new nerves and blood vessels within three months.

They provide the cut nerves with new tissue, giving them a “loudspeaker” that enhances the nerve signal. Electrodes embedded in these implants record the nerve signals and pass them to the prosthetic arm in real time. Special algorithms undertake to “translate” nerve signals into intent for specific finger movements.

Apart from greater precision of movement, the new interface is more durable than any other such as it lasts for almost a year without any adjustments.