A Bionic Prosthetic Arm That Can Be Controlled By Mind

The News:

Claudia Mitchell, a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan war and lost her left arm, became first bionic woman of the world when she successfully received a bionic arm. She received this two years after losing her arm to a motorcycle.

Bionic arm is a mechanical arm fitted to an amputee, that can be controlled by the mere thoughts of the recipient! This not the first time to read mind but the level of success in functionality of this thought controlled arm is remarkable.



The term Biomechanics has many meanings and synonyms. Basically, it is the application of biological principles and systems of nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology. ‘Bionics’ is its short form, derived from the words biology and electronics, by Jack E. Steele in 1960 at a conference in Dayton.

Such an adaptation of nature’s ways to man’s mechanical devices is not new. Knowledge of the neural networks in human brain inspired produced cybernetics, artificial neurons, artificial neural networks, and swarm intelligence. Our radars imitate bats’ echolocating technique, so was the case with sonars and dolphins. The toughness of silky strings of spiders’ webs spurred new thoughts for scientists researching on new age materials.

As engineers and biologists benefit from each other’s knowledge, two different versions of bionics cropped up depending on the direction of flow of knowledge. However, in medicine, ‘Bionics’ refers to the replacement or enhancement of limbs or other organs of body. Well, a bionic implant is not the same as a prosthesis. It differ from a prosthesis in terms of functionality by mimicking the original orgon very closely, or even surpassing it. Now, the news making arm can even be controlled by thoughts!

What they did now?

The bionic arm is controlled by rerouting nerve, in Mitchell’s shoulder to healthy muscles in

her chest. This targeted muscle reinnervation redirects the original signals meant to the amputated arm to the robotic arm through surface electrodes. These electrodes are key engineering, in that they respond to Mitchell’s thoughts detected in nerve messages!

“Before the surgery, I doubted that I would ever he able to get my life back.” Ms. Mitchell quoted as saying, “But this arm and the Rehahilitation Institute of Chicago have allowed me to return to a life that is more rewarding and active than I ever could have imagined.

This arm allowed the recipient a signilicantly higher level of functionality like being able to open jars, reach up to high shelves, dressing them selves with more ease, feeling the heat and the pressure of a handshake.

Interestingly, Ms. Mitchell read about Mr. Sullisan of the Centre in Popular Science magazine a and contacted the institute. She is reported to have underwent the surgery on her 25th birthday and took an year to successfully accustom to it.

What Next?

Though, six people received such implants at this centre sine 2002, only Mitchell managed to successfully control the limb by thoughts. It all looks like science fiction, giving much needed confidence and independence to the amputees and can greatly help the war and accident victims to deal with their rest of life. We may one day see Cyborgs and “Six Million Dollar Man” in reality too, what with the fully functional mechanical hearts and cochlear implants for the deaf etc., are already available.