Advances in Neuronal Control of Prosthetic Devices

explanatory Essay
912 words
912 words


Every year, thousands of Americans are paralyzed in accidents. As a result researchers are currently looking into ways to help paralyzed patients carry out their daily duties and bring control to their lives. Bringing movement to those who are currently incapable of doing so could be accomplished through several methods. Recently, a robotic arm was made by the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute which was placed on an amputee’s shoulder, and functioned by monitoring nerve impulses from the subject. While this new technology proved to be a success, it has its drawbacks. Mainly, the subject must have a healthy or undamaged nervous system to allow the impulses to travel to the robotic limb. This limits this technology’s use to healthy amputees for the time being. The subject of this website deals with another technology which has been under recent development uses an electrode implanted into the motor cortex of the brain. When the subject thinks about moving the cursor on the screen, a computer analyzes the impulses detected by the electrode, and moves the cursor in the intended direction. Devices using this technique are referred to as Neuromotor Prostheses (NMP). NMP’s holds much potential for those with spinal cord injuries and other conditions which damage the motor neurons of the body because it bypasses these areas and is controlled directly by the brain. Experiments with injured subjects who suffer from tetraplegia (all 4 limbs paralyzed) were successful in showing that a NMP could allow a person to control a cursor on the screen using only the intention to do so . While NMPs have shown great promise, they are still only in the earliest phases of development. Currently, only 2-D directional control is possible...

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...isk. Also, the sensor, which is made up of about 100 tiny metal electrodes, can cause brain tissue to attach to the sensors, thus when they are removed potential scar tissue can form.

Another major issue that stunts the growth of this research is simply how complicated it is, which means not only is moving forward difficult, but one negative factor can affect the experiments in so many ways, directly and indirectly. Cost, availability and effort are huge factors as well in the development of this research, as with any relatively new field of research. Overall, most of the dilemmas facing the future of Neuromotor Prostheses relate to the newness of the field and can be overcome with time, support, and detailed care.


Hochberg, Leigh R., et al. "Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetralegia." nature 442 (2006): 164-171.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that a robotic arm was made by the chicago rehabilitation institute, and functioned by monitoring nerve impulses from the amputee's shoulder.
  • Aims to enable spinal cord injury victims lost motor functions by corresponding the action potentials to an alternate device.
  • Describes how neuromotor prostheses are used to send signals to external receptors in order to record possible neurons despite the differentiating layers.
  • States that hochberg, leigh r., et al. "neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetralegia." nature 442 (2006): 164-171.
  • Explains that even if a breakthrough occurs, the test subjects will not have the privilege of parttaking in the success of the experiments.
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