To be honest, I overslept and missed Dr. Kaplan’s lecture on the brain, so I will talk about another brain-related topic in biomedical engineering: Bionic limbs. It’s not quite about the brain, but in order to connect these prosthetic limbs to people, they need to somehow be connected to the brain.
One arm developed by DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is called DEKA. It can “pick up a raisin or grape and know the difference without looking at it. The hand… is no larger than an average human hand and [weighs] no more than nine pounds.” (EMBS) The bionic arm is connected to the shoulder, where there are nerve endings from the spinal cord. When the amputee thinks about moving their arm, the brain sends electrical impulses which are detected by the DEKA arm, so there is no need to practice using the arm. There were sensors attached that vibrated accordingly when the user picked up a grape or raisin, sending signals back to the brain.
I think this technology is incredible. Nothing will truly replace a real arm, but to have a bionic one send and receive signals from the brain makes it come very close. Once this technology becomes more available, the quality of life for amputees will increase drastically.