The Future of Neuroprosthetics

The growth of research towards neuroprosthetics is constantly expanding. The concept is simple; those who lost their limbs will be able to get prosthetics that they can control with their mind.  Losing a hand and forearm wouldn’t necessarily mean never being able to use that arm again with this technology. Although mind control has been a fictional concept for years, it is possible to use neural control on a prosthetic connected to the nervous system within the rest of the arm (Leuthardt). Electrodes are threaded into these nerves in the stump and are stimulated in order to cause activity within the prosthetic (Kwok). This technology can also be used for those who have been paralyzed and are no longer able to move certain parts of their bodies on their own. They can control a neuroprosthetic robot arm with their mind in order to aid them in accomplishing simple activities like getting a drink of water.

According to Marshall McLuhan, the medium in which something is portrayed gives a greater message than the information within the medium itself (McLuhan 8). For example, seeing someone in public without part of their arm causes people to believe the person has a harder time doing daily activities than other people. They often get weird looks because of a small difference in their body. However, with neuroprosthetics, a new name can be given to these people, as they will be able to do important activities like hold and grab objects or aid in driving. They will also have an arm, meaning they will not be as different as everyone else feels they are.

Neuroprosthetics as they are not near to being perfect. The reaction time of performing certain activities when using this technology is much less than when using a real limb. Another complaint is that there is a lack of sensation to those using the prosthetic limb (when someone touches it, the person has no way of knowing unless they see it happen). These people do not have an accurate sense of pressure or temperature. This can cause difficulties because the person might not know how hard to hold an object to make sure they don’t break it. Research is, however, currently being done in order to make the prosthetics more high-tech and allow people to know more about what type of object they are holding or touching (Kwok).

This technology can also be used for people who have had strokes, but since the nerve pathways to the brain have been severed, the brain itself instead of the nerves within a limb must be activated. This means the researchers have to mimic the signals within the limb or make the brain learn all new signals about what stimulation causes what reaction in the body.

The future of neuroprosthetics holds the possibility for the people who have them to be able to not have any difficulties participating in everyday activities while also having the ability to do some complex activities. As the development of neuroprosthetics expands, people will be able to perfect the skills to relay information from their mind through their neurons and into the prosthetic limb. This opens the path for other new technologies to be developed, like someone being able to use their thoughts to show someone else what they have seen. At this point in time, the possibilities for new technologies are endless.

1. Kwok, Roberta. “Neuroprosthetics: Once More, with Feeling.”Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 8 May 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

2. Leuthardt, Eric C., Jarod L. Roland, and Wilson Z. Ray. “Neuroprosthetics.” The Scientist. N.p., 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

3. McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingki, 2001. Print.

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