Neural interface technology for advanced prosthetic limbs

Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Recent advances in artificial limbs have resulted in the provision of powered ankle and knee function for lower extremity amputees and powered elbow, wrist, and finger joints for upper extremity prostheses. Researchers still struggle, however, with how to provide prosthesis users with full volitional and simultaneous control of the powered joints. This project seeks to develop means to allow amputees to control their powered prostheses by activating the peripheral nerves present in their residual limb. Such neural control can be more natural than currently used myoelectric control, since the same functions previously served by particular motor fascicles can be directed to the corresponding prosthesis actuators for simultaneous joint control, as in normal limbs. Future plans include the capability to electrically activate the sensory components of residual limb nerves to provide amputees with tactile feedback and an awareness of joint position from their prostheses.