A News Health — 19 December 2014

141216_3_medLes Baugh lost both of his arms 40 years ago in an electrical accident. Today, the Colorado man is able to move two prosthetic arms, simultaneously, using his mind.

The ongoing research effort is taking place at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboraty (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

Prior to using the new prostheses, Baugh first had to undergo surgery call nerve reinnervation. According to the press release, Albert Chi, MD, a Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon, explained, “It’s a relatively new surgical procedure that reassigns nerves that once controlled the arm and the hand. By reassigning existing nerves, we can make it possible for people who have had upper-arm amputations to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform.”

141216_1_lgBaugh was then fitted with a custom socket for his torso and shoulders, that allowed researchers to attach the prosthetic arms to his shoulders, as well as connect the arms with the re-innervated nerves that control them.

“I just went into a whole different world.” Baugh said, performing several tasks designed to test the system and coordination.

“This task simulated activities that may commonly be faced in a day-to-day environment at home,” said APL’s Courtney Moran, a prosthetist working with Baugh. “This was significant because this is not possible with currently available prostheses. He was able to do this with only 10 days of training, which demonstrates the intuitive nature of the control.”

Metro-AdMoran explained, “What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control.”

For now, Baugh must use these prostheses in the laboratory setting; however, according to RP Principal Investigator Michael McLoughlin, “The next step is to send Baugh home with a pair of limb systems so that he can see how they integrate with his everyday life.”

Images and video courtesy of John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboraty (APL)

Click here to read the entire press release.

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Geoff Sims

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