Exoskeleton Gives Freedom to Disabled

Image: Exoskeleton Gives Freedom to Disabled

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 04:12 PM

By Greg Richter

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Researchers are a step closer to making wheelchairs obsolete.

An exoskeleton that will be used by a paraplegic teen to kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is the coming hope for people who are paralyzed or have lost limbs, The Washington Post reports.

The motorized exoskeleton allows users to fit into the device and control its movement just by thinking.

Experimental models with rats and monkeys worked with chips implanted in the brain. Once their brains were trained, the rats were able to move a lever and give themselves water just by thinking about it. The monkeys could control devices half a world away through the Internet.

Scientists first identified which neurons fire to perform certain tasks then pick up the signals on implanted chips.

"You can count on this plasticity when designing a prosthetic," Jose Carmena, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Berkeley, told the Post. "You can count on the brain to learn."

Newer versions don't have to penetrate the brain to work.

The aim is eventually to free people who have suffered loss of limbs or who cannot move them. One version of an arm actually connects to the stump and picks up the neural transmissions at the end of the arm.

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