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First Thought-Controlled Bionic Leg: A Milestone for Amputees
Until now, only thought-controlled bionic arms were available to amputees. Levi Hargrove, PhD, of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)?s Center for Bionic Medicine, has developed a system to use neural signals to safely improve limb control of a bionic leg. The new bionic leg "learns and performs activities unprecedented for any leg amputee, including seamless transitions between sitting, walking, ascending and descending stairs and ramps, and repositioning the leg while seated,? says Hargrove. RIC research subject Zac Vawter is a lower-limb amputee who underwent targeted muscle reinnervation surgery to redirect nerves from damaged muscle in his amputated limb to healthy hamstring muscle above his knee. When the redirected nerves instruct the muscles to contract, sensors on the patient?s leg detect tiny electrical signals from the muscles. A specially-designed computer program analyzes these signals and data from sensors in the robotic leg. It instantaneously decodes the type of movement the patient is trying to perform and then sends those commands to the robotic leg.
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