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Implant sensors allow amputees to control bionic limbs with their brains

Wed 20 May 2015

After a year of testing amputees can now control bionic legs with their minds, thanks to a system of miniature implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) placed in a patient’s residual muscle tissue.

The technology, which triggers movement in the prosthesis via a receiver, was developed by Icelandic orthopaedic group Ossur and has been successfully tested on two amputee patients.

Jon Sigurdsso, Ossur president and CEO announced the results of the trials today in Copenhagen, confirming that the two individuals are the first amputees in the world to be able to control the movement of their lower-limb prostheses with their minds.

Gummi Olafsson, one of the amputees testing the new technology, has not been able to move his right foot or lower leg for ten years following a traffic accident in his childhood. He said that the Ossur implant allowed him to control his bionic leg and foot both subconsciously and intentionally.bionic-ossur(1)[1]

“As soon as I put my foot on, it took me about 10 minutes to get control of it. I could stand up and just walk away. Come back, sit down, use my muscles to move my foot in the position I wanted to use it. It was, like you couldn’t believe the feeling when you were moving your ankle. It was really strange. I couldn’t explain it. It was like, I was moving it with my muscles, there was nobody else doing it, the foot was not doing it, I was doing it, so it was really strange and overwhelming,” Olafsson recalled.

bionic-ossur(2)[1]

The IMES measure 5mm by 3mm and were provided by U.S. medical technology developer, the Alfred Mann Foundation.

Olafsson added that his ability to control the new prosthetic limb increases every day.

“Your muscles are always getting bigger, so you get more control over it. So every day if you are using it, you’re always getting more and more control over what you’re doing with your foot, so in a way, every day you’re learning more about how to walk properly with the foot, how to use it to go downhill, uphill, downstairs, upstairs, even sitting down and standing up from a chair,” he said.

Ossur has developed the technology to be compatible with its current range of bionic products, which adapt to an individual patient’s gait, speed and to different terrains.

The company hope to have the product available on the market in the next three to five years.

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