Many of today's bionic limbs are "myoelectric," controlled by electrodes attached to theresidual limb that pick up impulses generated when the wearer consciously contracts that muscle. Those systems aren't without their challenges though, such as a disruption in the signal when the wearer sweats or the prosthetic and sensors shift around on the skin. Now, University of Michigan bioengineer Paul Cederna and his colleagues have developed what may be a more durable approach: they implant the wearer with new "minimuscles," tiny muscle grafts from their own tissue that are monitored by electrodes inserted into the skin. From Science:
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The researchers isolate bundles of fibers from each of the major nerves in the arm and wrap each bundle in a chunk of muscle tissue roughly the size of a paper clip, often harvested from the thigh. The process basically creates a new set of finger muscles inside a person’s forearm or bicep.
Because wrapping nerves this way also relieves certain types of pain common after an amputation, hundreds of people have already had the procedure—but without the wire implants that could record from the muscles to control a prosthesis. In a new study out today in Science Translational Medicine, Cederna and UM neural engineer Cynthia Chestek describe the first test of that control step.
In three participants with amputations at different points along the arm who already had muscle implants, wires inserted through the skin near the muscle grafts could easily pick up their electrical signals, the researchers report. Even with an amputation up near the shoulder, a computer could interpret which tiny muscles were contracting, and by how much, to isolate different intended movements—a flex of the pointer finger versus the thumb, for example.
New biohacking from the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective (previously): the Pegleg, a stripped-down Piratebox (previously) based on a Raspberry Pi 0 with needless components removed and an extra wifi card soldered on.
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Medtronic is the most notorious maker of insecure medical implants in America, with a long history of inserting computers into people's bodies with insecure wireless interfaces, toolchains and update paths, and nothing has changed.
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Yesterday, Bloomberg published a blockbuster story accusing the Chinese military of sneaking spy-chips "the size of a grain of rice" onto the motherboards of servers sold by Supermicro and/or Elemental for use in data-centers operated by the biggest US corporations (Apple and Amazon, among others), as well as US warships and military data-centers, and the servers used by Congress and the Senate.
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Computational neuroscientist Anders Sanberg is a senior research fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute where he explores the ethics of future human enhancement through AI, genetic engineering, and brain implants. IEEE Spectrum's Eliza Strickland interviewed Sanberg about the ethics of augmenting your wetware with neurotech:
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Spectrum: Do you worry that neurotech brain enhancements will only be available to the wealthy, and will increase the disparities between the haves and have-nots?
Sandberg: I’m not too worried about it. If the enhancement it is in the form of a device or pill, those things typically come down in price exponentially. We don’t have to worry so much about them being too expensive for the mass market. It’s more of a concern if there is a lot of service required—if you have to go to a special place and get your brain massaged, or you have to take a few weeks off work for training, the prices for those services won’t come down because they’re based on salaries.
The real question is, how much benefit do you get from being enhanced? You have to consider positional benefits versus absolute benefits. For example, being tall is positionally good for men, tall men tend to get ahead in work and have better life outcomes. But if everyone becomes taller, no one is taller. You only get the benefit if you’re taller than everyone else. Many people who are against enhancement use this argument: Enhancement leads to this crazy race and we’re all worse off.
Spectrum: So even if a cognition-enhancing device became available, you don’t think everyone should get one?
UC Berkeley researchers are developing "Neural Dust," tiny wireless sensors for implanting in the brain, muscles, and intestines that could someday be used to control prosthetics or a "electroceuticals" to treat epilepsy or fire up the immune system. So far, they've tested a 3 millimeter long version of the device in rats.
“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ says researcher Michel Maharbiz. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data."
Maharbiz, neuroengineer Jose Carmena, and their colleagues published their latest results on "Wireless Recording in the Peripheral Nervous System with Ultrasonic Neural Dust" in the journal Neuron.
From UC Berkeley:
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While the experiments so far have involved the peripheral nervous system and muscles, the neural dust motes could work equally well in the central nervous system and brain to control prosthetics, the researchers say. Today’s implantable electrodes degrade within 1 to 2 years, and all connect to wires that pass through holes in the skull. Wireless sensors – dozens to a hundred – could be sealed in, avoiding infection and unwanted movement of the electrodes.
“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely.
Last year, Mohammed Abad, 43, whose penis was destroyed when he was hit by a car as a child, received an 8-inch implant involving two tubes that inflate his reconstructed flesh phallus when he pumps it up via a button in his scrotum. The implant was the culmination of years of reconstructive surgery. These kinds of implants are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. Abad has now announced that he will soon lose his virginity to a sex worker named Charlotte Rose, 35.
“I have waited long enough for this — it’ll be a great start to the new year," Abad said. "My penis is working perfectly now so I just want to do it. I’m really excited. I can’t wait for it to finally happen.”
Rose will travel from London to see Abad in Edinburgh.
"I am so honoured that he chose me to take his virginity," she said. "We plan to have a dinner date so we can get to know each other and then two hours of private time. I’m not charging him.”
(The British Journal)
More: "Man's 'Bionic Penis' Is Not So Rare After All" (LiveScience) Read the rest
Neil Harbisson is totally color blind, so he "hears colors" via an antenna implanted in his skull that translates light frequencies into audible vibrations. Read the rest