Monday, November 5, 2012

Man walks with robot leg using only his brain

Our attempts at understanding how the brain works have yielded very interesting results in the last couple of years We have seen paraplegics operate robot limbs using only their brain, and it is even possible to mimic the fine finger movements, allowing for complicated brain-controlled actions. Now, American scientists have come up with something new, as they have found a way to let a person control a bionic leg with his mind. He even proved to be capable to climb one of the highest skyscrapers with the robot leg, using only his brain and his one healthy leg.

By means of experiment and to raise awareness of a working prototype, the scientists let their guinea pig, who goes by the name Zac Vawter, walk up all the stairs of the Willis Tower in Chicago. This means Vawter had to climb up 103 floors by merely using his mind and his one healthy leg. His bionic leg proved to be quite capable of adapting to his thoughts, and the 31-year old succeeded in reaching the top, thereby showing how effective mind-controlled limbs can be.

The technique works by implanting electrodes into the brain that read activity patterns in certain areas, and translate that into actions. Scientists have spent years testing the bionic leg, and will continue to do so by analysing the computer output that was generated during Vawter's climb to the top of the Willis Tower. Even though Vawter succeeded in making good use of his artificial leg, the researchers think the technique requires further adjustments, which means it will take another couple of years before bionic legs reach the market.

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