According to the new inventions published in Science Robotics, Cleveland Clinic researchers have created and developed a unique Bionic Arm in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of New Brunswick.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Bionic Arm is devised specially for patients that have an upper-limb amputation. It enables users to think, behave and function just like a normal individual without an amputation.

Like the Inflatable Robotic Hand that could sense touch, the Bionic Arm enables its wearers to feel the movements of the hand with its sensory and motor functions. Both can help amputees to do daily chores and complex tasks.

Features and Working of the Bionic Arm

The multinational research team led by the Cleveland Clinic has created a bionic system that combines three main crucial features that includes touch and grip kinesthesia, intuitive motor control, with the natural feeling of opening and closing the hand.

In a neural-machine interface, this Bionic Arm system is the first to evaluate all three sensory and motor functions at once in a prothesized arm. The neural-machine interface is linked with the user’s limb nerves. It assists patients to transmit their brain’s nerve impulses into the prosthesis when they require, using or moving them, and get physical information from their surroundings and pass it on through their nerves into their brains.

Paul Marasco, an associate professor at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the lead researcher, the invention of this Bionic Arm, is a significant step in providing individuals with amputation by offering them a complete restoration of their natural arm function.

According to Dr. Marasco, the Bionic Arm can make judgments and decisions. It can also calculate and correct their mistakes like a person without an amputation. Along with this, the new Bionic Arm works naturally as a normal hand.

Cleveland Clinic Bionic Arm

Dr. Paul Marasco, Ph.D. (left)

The Bionic Arm relies on bi-directional feedback and control, which enables it to study its users to execute tasks with a similar degree of accuracy, like that of non-disabled people. The reflective markers on the arms and bodies of users aid a computer in observing its 3D motion, while lenses enhance the computer’s accurate view of what they see. The robotic touch system is fitted inside the advanced bionic arm. Each tiny black box produces an individual finger sensation via the neural interface to the wearer.

Testing of the New Bionic Arm

The researchers of the novel Bionic Arm tested the device on two participants. Previously, the two participants had undergone targeted sensory and motor reinnervation procedures with upper limb amputations established a neural-machine interface by redirecting amplified nerves to the residual skin and muscles.

Target sensory reinnervation triggers sensory receptors to touch the skin with small robots, enabling patients to sense the feeling of touch. When patients consider moving their limbs in targeted motor reinnervation, the reinnervated muscles interact with a robotic prosthesis to move in the same way. In addition, these small, robust robots vibrate kinesthetic sensory receptors that make wearers believe that their hands and arms are moving.

Prosthesis Efficiency and Profitability (PEP) Test.

During the testing of the Bionic Arm, participants completed tasks that reflected basic everyday behaviors which require hand and arm functionality. The researchers evaluated how well the bionic limbs performed compared with non-disabled people and individuals with amputations who use traditional prosthetic devices with their newly designed advanced evaluation solutions. They also evaluated how individuals with advanced prosthetics fared when all three sensory and motor modalities were enabled simultaneously compared to when they were enabled separately.

As per Dr. Marasco, persons with a typical prosthesis cannot feel with their limbs, which is why they act differently than people without amputations when performing daily duties. Traditional prosthetists, for example, have to always look at their prostheses when using them and struggle to learn how to rectify errors if they use their hands with too little or too much pressure.

The researchers could see with the new mechanical limb and enhanced assessment techniques that the brains and behavioral strategies of study partners changed to match those of a person without amputation. They did not have to look at their prosthesis; they were able to find items without looking and to correct their faults more successfully.

This study was partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is a research and development wing of the Department of Defense of the United States.

Prosthetic developments have assisted users in gaining higher functionality. Moreover, it helps them handle their everyday life alone more effectively.

Cleveland Clinic‘s Robotic Arm is an exceptional Bionic Arm. It will assist persons with upper limb amputations to think like capable individuals, which offers prosthesis wearers new levels of seamless reintegration into everyday life.