(01/16/14) - It is a dream come true for millions of amputees: a prosthetic leg
that is controlled with the mind. There are 2 million people with amputations in
the United States.Prosthetics keep getting better, but mind controlled
limbs are taking this to the next level.
Not much slows down Zac Vawter, not even an amputated leg, "I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident."
Zac has a prosthetic that certainly helps him get around, but has its limitations, "if I walked up and left the knee locked, and sat down, it stays locked."
Now a first-of-its-kind thought-controlled myo-electric leg does what Zac's prosthetic can't. Before Zac could use it, a surgeon took nerves from Doug's lower leg and redirected them to his hamstring muscle.
"Instead of firing when you think about bending your knee, it would fire when you think about raising your ankle," says Dr. Doug Smith, who did Zac's surgery.
When Zac wants to move the leg, his brain sends a signal that travels down his spinal cord, through his nerves. Electrodes in the prosthetic pick up signals from the muscles.
"And you can have a prosthetic device that actually works according to your thoughts," Smith says.
The device is still undergoing studies, so Zac can't take it home. But he looks forward to the day he can, "stairs with that leg, the bionic leg, is really phenomenal."
Until now, only thought-controlled arms were available. Although the cost of the new leg hasn't been determined, researchers say a version could be available for widespread use within three to five years.
ABC12 Main Station