• Question: Can artificial limbs be controlled by the brain and nerve-impulses rather than a controller?

    Asked by mrstagg to Lisa, Jemma, John, Katie on 27 Jun 2012. This question was also asked by jhorsnall.
    • Photo: Lisa Fitzgerald

      Lisa Fitzgerald answered on 27 Jun 2012:

      Hi mrstagg,

      Absolutely! Artificial limbs such as arms and legs come in a range of types with a variety of uses. Most commonly patients will be provided with a plastic limb which looks like the missing portion but has no functionality. More and more patients will now also get a more functional limb which allows them to move or do things such as a claw in the hand or a carbon fibre foot. More advanced prosthetics will also have controllers in them to act as an automatic joint such as a knee.

      As you’ve highlighted the ultimate aim is to reintegrate the artificial limbs into the patients nervous system so that they can use them as you or I would. This technology is still in its infancy but scientists have been able to register muscle signals in the patient and use these to control limbs. For instance, electrical impulses and muscle contractions in the chest can be used to control artificial hand movements…

      Really interesting question!