Bionics emerges as a new rehabilitation technology for the next generation

Bionics emerges as a new rehabilitation technology for the next generation
Issue Date
KIST-Tohoku Joint Symposium on Nanobiomedical Engineering
In May of 2001, Jesse Sullivan, a fifty-five-year-old power-company electrician, accidentally touched a live power line carrying 7200 volts of electricity, and had to have both his arms immediately amputated at the shoulder. Seven weeks later in November of 2001, Sullivan volunteered to be a guinea pig to test a new experimental myoelectric arm which had been developed by a joint team of physicians and biomedical engineers from Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in the US. During the operative procedure, a surgeon on the team decided to reroute the ulnar, radial, median, and musculocutaneous nerves from Sullivan’s left-shoulder stump to his pectoral muscle, which was of no use to Sullivan in its original form because he no longer had his arms. With the brain-muscle connection re-established at the pectoral muscle, the myoelectric signals for wrist and hand movement were detected from Sullivan’s chest skin whenever he intended to move his nonexisting wrist and hand. Engineers on the team developed a prosthetic arm which could be controlled by the myoelectric signal acquired from Sullivan’s chest. The result was that Sullivan became the world’s first “bionic” man with an ability to move his prosthetic arm using nothing other than his own intuition (Figure 1). Although Sullivan’s new prosthetic arm was still far from being as dexterous as Steve Austin’s six-million-dollar bionic arm, it certainly represented a breakthrough as the first of its kind in rehabilitation technology using a man-machine interface.
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