Advanced Prosthetics, Neuroprosthetics, and Artificial Limbs

Advanced Prosthetics, Neuroprosthetics, and Artificial Limbs

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6130-1.ch005
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An area of research that is very close to invasive BCI presented earlier is the area of neuroprosthetics. This involves the use of invasive BCI systems aiming to control prosthetic devices (i.e. an artificial hand) or help in rehabilitation of human senses such as seeing and hearing. The most well-known advances in neuroprosthetics are in the area of seeing, the case of the artificial retina, the case of cochlear implants for hearing, and the use of thought-controlled artificial limbs. Building upon knowledge and developments presented in the previous chapters about BCI and robotics, this chapter combines these technologies and discusses advances and challenges to be met in the areas of advanced prosthetics, neuroprosthetics, and artificial limbs.
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Progress In Neuroprosthetics

Aside from the spectacular and media friendly cases of neuroprosthetics applied to hearing and sight, there is a vast array of treatments available for control of pain, incontinence, the restoration of movement and feeling to limbs, the restoration of smell, taste and speech. Progress has also been made in the area of controlling spasms and tremors due to conditions such as Parkinson’s or epilepsy, as well as memory loss due to brain trauma or Alzheimer’s.

Nearly 1 million people in the United States are affected by Parkinson's disease. It is expected that Alzheimer's disease will affect more than 107 million people worldwide by the year 2050. These two diseases alone indicate that there is already a large market for cognitive neural prosthetics. Other relevant markets correspond to traumatic brain injury. More than 1.4 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injury (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). Another market is speech disorder. We have said very little about speech disorders in this book, but in the US alone approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble speaking, in many cases this can be attributed to aphasias (“Aphasia”, n.d.) which are treatable in principle using advanced neural prosthetics. In many cases the cause of motor control or speech difficulties is stroke. This corresponds to a market of more than 6.5 million people (Rothwell, 2011) in the United States.

All off this will benefit in future from advances in the electrodes that interface with the brain, flexible and light biocompatible electronic circuits, as well as power sources, technologies for harvesting energy from the chemistry, natural movement or electricity of the boy, as well as the passage of air over specially designed surfaces, not to mention communications using wireless Body Area Networks.

A lot of progress in Neuroprosthetics in the past relied on experiments using monkeys. It may be more difficult to do this in future as many countries are considering banning the use of primates for this kind of work. Work is done using rats, cats and other animals. It may be useful to develop new experimental techniques to advance progress in this field.

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