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Podcast: Deep Implanted BMI and Prosthetics in 2009

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Podcast length: 1 minute 53 Seconds

Podcast Description

A Sky News soundbite, examining the work of University of Pittsburg researchers on prosthetic limb control, which nicely sums up the state of development for prosthetics in the closing months of 2009.

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Podcast viewing notes

Whilst this short piece is technically about the BrainGate controller, it never mentions it by name. However, the hardware shown, is indeed that. A 4mm x 4mm chip with an array of 10 x 10 electrodes on it. It is implanted into the motor cortex of the monkey, in the same manner as has been done to monkeys and humans for the past half decade.

What has changed however, is the fidelity of which we can record brain signals, and the degree of understanding we now have as to what all those neural codes actually mean. Some parts of the presentation rehash old ground - such as the monkey coming to accept the arm as part of their natural body, and treating it as just another body part. What is new is the fine motor control shown, in being able to operate a wrist without really thinking about it.

A word of caution is advised on taking the podcast at face value. What is not mentioned here is that the arm is constrained in its range of movement. If the brain signals for it to jerk out quickly, say, the software in the arm will damp down the more violent movements, and ignore those that go beyond a set range. This is not directly meant to stop the monkey from using the arm to batter down its cage or break its restraints, but serves as a safety mechanism for both researchers and the monkey, from violent impulses or too much force.

However, it does mean that not all the motion shown is entirely the monkey's brain. If it were not for these smoothing and slowing algorithms, the movement would still be significantly more erratic than shown

Additional Research Links

University of Pittsburg Motorlab

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