detnews via AP wrote:Bionic arm may aid soldier amputees
Tennessee man tests first thought-controlled prosthetic arm in joint military research project.
Bill Poovey / Associated Press
DAYTON, Tenn. -- Jesse Sullivan has two prosthetic arms, but he can climb a ladder at his house and roll on a fresh coat of paint. He's even mastered a more sensitive maneuver -- hugging his grandchildren.
The motions are coordinated and smooth because his left arm is a bionic device controlled by his brain. He thinks, "Close hand," and electrical signals sent through surgically re-routed nerves make it happen.
Doctors describe Sullivan as the first amputee with a thought-controlled artificial arm.
Researchers encouraged Sullivan, who became an amputee in an industrial accident, not to go easy on his experimental limb.
"When I left, they said don't bring it back looking new," the 59-year-old Sullivan said with a grin. At times he been so rough with the bionic arm that it has broken, including once when he pulled the end off starting a lawnmower.
That prompted researchers to make improvements, part of a U.S. government initiative to refine artificial limbs that connect body and mind. The National Institutes of Health has supported the research, joined more recently by the military's research-and-development wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Some 411 U.S. troops in Iraq and 37 in Afghanistan have had wounds that cost them at least one limb, the Army Medical Command says.
Although work that created Sullivan's arm preceded the research by DARPA, he said he's proud to test a type of bionic arm that soldiers could someday use. "Those guys are heroes in my book," he said, "and they should have the best there is."
"We're excited about collaborating with the military," said the developer of Sullivan's arm, Dr. Todd Kuiken, director of neuroengineering at the Center for Artificial Limbs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Sullivan's bionic arm represents an advance over typical artificial arms, like the right-arm prosthesis he uses, which has a hook and operates with sequential motions.
"It is not as smooth as a normal arm but it works much smoother than a normal prosthesis," Kuiken said.
Science actually working to help people.