Losing a limb often means getting fitted for a prosthetic. Although there have been some scientific and engineering advances (compare a pirate’s peg leg to “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius’ legs), they still are just inert attachments to your body. Researchers at Johns Hopkins hope to change all that. In the Journal of Neural Engineering, they announced a proof of concept design that allowed a person to control prosthetic fingers using mind control.
The test subject did not lose any limbs but was the subject of brain mapping due to epilepsy. The electrodes used to map the brain also allowed the subject to control a modular prosthetic limb. The mapping told researchers what parts of the brain activated for movement of each finger. The researchers then set up the prosthetic to operate from the same regions of the brain.
The process required 128 electrodes on a small rectangular sheet of film. Each electrode measures about a 1 mm area of the brain. Initial tests showed the subject could correctly control the limb 76% of the time. Further refinements drove the accuracy up to 88%. This was without special training. The entire experiment took about two hours. The video below shows the arm in action.