Some neurotechnologies work to bring the outside world to an individual otherwise shut out because of dysfunctions with the sensory apparatus. Others look to bring the shut-in person back into communication with his or her environment. These devices can carry, decode, interpret, and act upon thoughts and brain waves that the person is not able to execute.
This type of interface is used for people with paralysis due either to illness or injury. By thinking about the desired movement, interfaces allow individuals to control mechanical objects with their minds. These neuromotor prostheses circumvent the nervous system where the damage is located by picking up brain signals detected by electrodes placed on the cerebral cortex.
Emerging through the skin, the electrodes connect to a series of computers. Successful experiments have enabled people to control their television sets, send and receive e-mail messages, move wheelchairs, and operate robotic arms -- all through brain-computer interfaces.
Robotic limbs are becoming increasingly complex and advanced. Touch Bionics, an upper-limb prosthetic company based in Scotland, was featured in the Washington Post in July 2007 for their i-Limb Hand. This device is the first marketed prosthetic to have individual motors at each finger joint.
It allows for a previously unheard of range of motion, allowing users to accomplish tasks like turning a key or picking up delicate objects. The i-Limb Hand is controlled by nerve impulse signals delivered to the device through muscles in the arm.
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