Archives for category: Bionics

BCI neurotech

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How much effort goes into picking up a spoon? The planning and anticipation of which hand to use, where to place the hand, when to open and close the fingers, and how much weight to anticipate is complex and requires much coordination of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

In a normally functioning nervous system, movement of the extremities occurs when electrical impulses from the brain trigger a response which is sent to muscles. The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) passes along electrical signals to the peripheral nervous system, and the nerves in the peripheral nervous system respond by communicating with their corresponding muscles.

When a person has a neurological injury causing paralysis, the signals between the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system are interrupted. Suddenly, simple every day tasks become complicated. An injury such as a fall causing quadriplegia can leave a person struggling to figure out how to move around and perform previously effortless everyday tasks such as eating and getting dressed. The aspiration with medical technology, then, is to make the transition from injury to adjustment as smooth as possible.

Neuroprosthetics are medical devices intended to assist with injuries to the nervous system. In recent years, there has been much growth with this technology using brain-computer interface (BCI), robotics, and exoskeleton technology. The challenge with neurological injuries, however, is that it is very difficult to replicate the intricate and precise workings of the brain and nervous system.

The team from BrainGate recently published a study following a quadriplegic subject in which they ultimately allowed him to use his brain to successfully control the movement in his arms to be able to feed himself. This amazing coordination of technology was achieved by implanting electrodes into his brain which picked up electrical signals and transfer these signals to Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES).

In this study, the electrodes implanted in the motor cortex picked up the electrical signals as he planned to use his upper extremities. The BrainGate system is able to decipher the signals from the brain activity and transfer it to the FES system through electrical pulses. These electrical pulses stimulated the muscles in his arm, creating the desired movement which the participant had planned for. Specifically, the man was able to feed himself using his hand for the first time in 8 years.

Still an investigational device, the BrainGate system is so promising in providing independence and versatility of movement, and the team is now working with the Harvard Wyss Center. The hope is that someday individuals will be able to implement neurotechnology such as this as soon as possible after injury, allowing for adjustment before the deleterious effects of immobility set in.

Watch the video below for more insight into this amazing work:

 

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The bionic exoskeleton will never, ever cease to be an amazing product. It is, in every way, aligned with the evolution of man, from technology to function. We have developed as humans to walk, and not sit, and so a product that addresses the captivity of being wheelchair bound addresses the essence of what we are: bipedal creatures. The robotic exoskeleton technology has been breathtaking to observe as it evolves, from bulky and functional to increasingly light, mobile, and personalized.

The prosthetic world is undergoing a revolution, and has never seen such advances as in the last 10 years. The work behind it, the hours of labor, the intelligence of those who are painstakingly developing these products while trying to negotiate with the FDA for home and personal use may be unseen, but the finalized product’s beauty is visible. As technology advances, however, so does the cost, and many home units of motorized prosthetics are still out of financial reach for those that need it.

Phoenix by SuitX addresses these financial and functional concerns while presenting an amazing, modular, lightweight product. Weighing only 27 pounds, Phoenix allows 4 hours of continuous use between charges, and can be put on piece by piece for ease of use. Its adaptive fit also allows for a more minimalist design, which can allow for versatility and a generally more aesthetic approach.

SuitX’s mission to accept feedback from its users with constant research and development, gear the product toward versatile ambulatory use, and focus on making not only a highly functional but affordable product marks the shift toward a more approachable and attainable bionic exoskeleton for paraplegics.

Anyone that has ever observed anyone with a neurological injury that renders them paralyzed in the lower extremities understands the necessity of a device that allows them to stand and ambulate. A constant sedentary and inactive life wreaks havoc on a person’s health and is psychologically extremely difficult. For years, otherwise healthy and often young people have been given only a wheelchair as the answer to their injury, but thankfully this sentence is changing with devices such as Phoenix.

Watch the video below for a demonstration and explanation of this amazing product.

SENSARS-PRODUCT-2

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What if there was a device which allowed amputees to feel their limbs again?

The loss of a limb or damage of the nerves that travel through our bodies can greatly diminish the human experience. The sensory system dictates how we respond to our environment, transmitting signals to and from our brains so we can move and feel. Pain, pressure, and temperature response are just some of the functions of the somatosensory system connected to our skin, allowing us to experience the world. In addition, our nerves have a motor component, sending signals from the brain to our muscles, telling them to work so we can move and perform tasks.

Nerves function much like electrical wires, transmitting signals between the brain and areas of stimulus, like an electrical wire between a socket and device. It is this electrical current which causes signals to be transmitted. After an amputation, the nerve is severed, not only disrupting the flow of a nerve signal, but also sometimes leaving amputees with a cruel phantom limb pain, as if the limb was still there. For those with limbs still intact who suffer from nerve damage, the physical limb remains, but its function is diminished without the motor and sensory signals being transmitted.

SENSY by Sensars is almost unbelievable in the amazing feat that it has sought to achieve, allowing amputees and those with nerve damage to feel again. Artificial sensors are implanted to connect to intact nerves, stimulating response in the brain as if there was an intact nerve in a limb. The sensors are connect to wires simulating an actual nerve, and those wires are implanted and connected to actual nerves within the body. Between the artificial sensors  and the residual nerve is an implantable neurostimulator which is bidirectional, sending and receiving signals from both the intact nerve and the artificial sensors.

The versatility of SENSY is also amazing. The company has a multi-functional product which targets both amputees and those with intact limbs who have nerve damage. There are 3 options, but the flow of information is essentially the same. A sensor (either from artificial skin, glove/sock, or “pacemaker”) sends a signal to a controller which is able to activate that signal to an implantable neurostimulator, which causes an electrical signal to communicate with the intact nerve. Once that communication is made, the connection is made between the artificial and biological part of the nervous system, and feeling is processed in the brain.

For amputees, Sensar has sought to decrease phantom limb pain and increase sensory feedback through sensors with a neuroprosthetic device which includes artificial skin. As we know, skin is very sensitive, and in this case will contain sensors which will prompt the prosthetic device to send signal through the artificial nervous system.

For those with intact limbs. the company is designing socks and gloves for those with upper and lower limb nerve damage. These socks and gloves contain sensors within the fabric which act essentially as sensitized skin, also sending signals to an implanted device which communicates with the intact nerves.

Finally, for those with an amputation but without prosthesis, the company has created an implantable pacemaker, essentially an excitable device like a sensor which also sends a signal to the nerve.

Go to the website to read about the full and brilliant description of this product, and watch the video for a visualization of how the artificial sensors are able to communicate with an intact nerve.Still in the prototype phase and not yet available for sale, SENSY will truly impact people’s lives once it is on the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anyone that has ever seen the effects of a stroke knows that they can be physically devastating. Within a day, a physically functional person can lose strength to an entire side of their body and face; leaving them dependent on caretakers or suddenly forced to spend a long period in the hospital. Though a stroke is an injury to the brain, whichever part of the brain it affects means that part of the body’s command center has been injured. In effect this severs the signal to the body, leaving muscles without direction.

Due to disuse after a stroke, the muscles will atrophy and fail to function properly, aligning with the common knowledge of “use it or lose it.”

However, if there is something to intervene early, and assist with rehabilitation and movement, it could possibly accelerate the recovery process.

The Rapael Smart Glove by Neofect is a brilliant way to engage stroke patients in movement and monitor progress. By assigning tasks to the user and simultaneously assisting them with the appropriate movements, the Smart Glove retrains the body in proper movement patterns. Through a mathematical analysis, these ‘task-training games’ are also adjusted for the user’s stroke level, ranging from mild to severe.

Though still in the prototype phase, the product is a brilliant solution to assist with the challenges of retraining stroke patients. Oftentimes, though a person wants to carry out a certain movement, they are unable. A product such as this assists with carrying out the planned movement, helping to bridge the injured signal between the mind and body. The system assists with 3 vital movements in upper body mobility: rotation of the forearm, upward and downward bending of the wrist, and opening and closing the hand.

 

 

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The retina is the eye’s camera lens, it is a vital thin layer which holds our photoreceptors, cells which receive light signals and communicate with the optic nerve to send these signals to the brain to process them as an image. With age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other visual degenerative diseases, the productivity and sensitivity of the the retina decreases, leading to blindness. This is devastating, to lose one’s vision is to lose touch with arguably the most important sense humans have in interacting with the world.

One amazing device which can help restore vision and is slated to be ready in 2015 is the Bio-Retina by Nano Retina, a bionic retinal implant which replaces the function of an existing, nonfunctional retina. The product is a small implantable chip which attaches to the retina and is powered by its own nanoelectrodes and photosensors. Once implanted, these photosensors help to communicate with the optic nerve to restore the flow of visual information to the brain. Implanted with a procedure which takes less than 30 minutes and requires only local anasthesia, the device is said to begin working instantaneously.  It is charged with an infrared beam from the specially designed eyeglasses which accompany the implant.

The device’s cost is planned to be $60,000. See the video below for details.

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Humans are visual creatures. Of all our senses we largely rely on sight, our cues for survival rely on it and much of our brain tissue is dedicated to the process. And while all prosthetics are complex, as recreating normal physiology is extremely difficult, the eye is something else. In order for us to view an image, signals are detected from the environment in our eyes, sent along via a nerve and then flipped and processed in the brain to form an image for us to view. This is happening constantly as we move our eyes. When there is an injury that obstructs this process, blindness occurs.

A developing category of prostheses called neuroprosthetics is finding a way to complement nervous system dysfunction and become the link between the brain, nerves, and the rest of the body. Within this category, bionic eyes are being developed to supplement neural injury leading to blindness. One such example is the development of bionic vision system from Monash Vision Group called the Gennaris.

Targeted for those with blindness or a severe visual impairment, Gennaris is a two part system of headwear with a camera and an implantable brain chip. While normally we rely on the retina in our eyes to receive images and then send signals to the brain via the optic nerve, Gennaris plans to bypass this process and send the signal straight to the brain from its camera into an implanted brain chip, which will then stimulate the visual cortex of the brain which processes images. This involves some retraining of the brain to adapt to this system, but for those that currently live in the dark this offers much hope.

The Monash Vision Group is still seeking funding to continue to develop this project for release in 2015, please contact them if you would like to contribute.

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Upper body prostheses have definitely come a long way. For those with amputations at the hand or wrist, gone is the time when the only option was a hook or some other horrific replacement. 

Touch Bionics is a company which makes myoelectric prostheses to replace upper body amputations at the hand and wrist. Myoelectric prostheses are a life-altering product which attach at the remaining part of the limb and are triggered my muscle signals from intact muscle. Touch Bionics has a number of products, and has recently updated their i-limb ultra bionic hand to the i-limb ultra revolution, which includes a rotating thumb and four other articulating digits for up to 36 types of grasp. A mobile app allows the control of these grip patterns, which includes 12 possible customized grips. In addition, a silicone skin-like covering is available in a number of colors to allow for improved grasp and a more skin-like feel.

As we know, hands are very complex body parts with multiple joints that are responsible for numerous different movements, functions, and types of grip. To recreate these movements and try to mimic the function of human fingers, particularly the thumb, is quite difficult. While the loss of a hand naturally causes a great disability, a great product such as this allows an individual to perform a multitude of daily task such as tie their shoes, grasp a pen, or use a smartphone.

Watch the video below for more information: