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Man uses only his mind to control two prosthetic arms

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 18, 2014 in Lifestyle
A man from Colorado, who lost both his arms in an electrical accident 40 years ago, has succeeded in controlling two prosthetic arms using only his mind.
Without being connected to any outside machine, Les Baugh can now move his arms on his own just by thinking about it. According to the Huffington Post, Les is one of the first people to have been fitted with a double set of Modular Prosthetic Limbs. He has learned how to to move them with the help of scientists from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.)
While similar advances have been made with single limbs, Engadget says that "bionic Baugh" is the "first bilateral shoulder-level amputee" to wear two MPLs at the same time. Unlike other experiments involving neural implants, Les underwent a procedure called "targeted muscle reinnervation, which reassigned the nerves that once controlled his arms and hands." Ten days later he could move cups from one shelf to the other just using his thoughts.
A so-called "socket" connects the prosthetics to his body. He is able to think about moving his arms and hands in different ways and the prosthetics respond.
Engadget quotes one of the researchers, Courtney Moran, who said:
"We expected him to exceed performance compared to what he might achieve with conventional systems, but the speed with which he learned motions and the number of motions he was able to control in such a short period of time was far beyond expectation. What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control."
At the moment, he can only use the two prosthetic arms in the laboratory, but he hopes to soon have a pair of his own to take home with him. Les said "Maybe I'll be able to -- for once -- be able to put change in a pop machine and get the pop out of it. Simple things like that that most people never think of."
Mike McLoughlin, the program manager at Johns Hopkins' Revolutionizing Prosthetics, said they were just getting started with the experiment. "There's just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us, and we just started down this road. I think the next five, ten years are going to bring some really phenomenal advancements."
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