NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016, 10:10 AM
Mind tricks have taken on new meaning.
A young man used only his brain to move the fingers of a prosthetic arm in a Johns Hopkins study that was recently published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.
Video footage shows what looks like a robotic hand moving its digits while the test subject controls it independently with his mind. Architects of the study think this is the first time a person has initiated both individual and independent movements on a mind-controlled prosthesis without being trained.
“This technology goes beyond available prostheses, in which the artificial digits, or fingers, moved as a single unit to make a grabbing motion,” senior author Nathan Crone, M.D. said.
Researchers first needed to intensely study the man’s brain to discover which areas controlled hand and arm movement. They did this with electrode sensors that lit up when the subject moved his own fingers. The prosthetic arm was then automated to move its fingers depending on which part of the brain was active at that moment.
Because the prosthetic arm “was wired to the patient through brain electrodes,” according to the Johns Hopkins press release, when the subject thought about moving his fingers, the prosthetic arm responded accordingly.
Although the test subject was not missing any limbs, authors of the study believe this can be a breakthrough for amputees and for the development of prosthetic limbs.
Crone said that there is still a long road ahead to perfecting the technology for people with prosthetics, but the results prove that mind-controlled prosthetics are a distinct possibility for the future.
With over 100,000 people in the United States alone living with amputated hands or arms, according to the study, many could potentially benefit from this technology.