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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Controlling a Leg That's Gone
25 September 2013 5:00 pm
After 31-year-old Zac Vawter lost part of his leg in a motorcycle accident, a team of doctors set out to create a new kind of prosthetic limb: one whose motions he could manipulate with his mind, by “flexing” a foot that was no longer there. The method is similar to one already tried in people who have lost an arm: The doctors at Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago removed nerves from damaged muscle in Vawter’s amputated leg and connected them to hamstring muscle in his thigh, which had been left intact. When Vawter imagined moving his missing lower leg, his thoughts caused various contraction patterns in the upper leg that remained. Electrodes stuck onto his skin picked up the signals and relayed them to sensors on the prosthesis (above), which interpreted how he wanted to move. The outcome, described today in The New England Journal of Medicine, wasn’t perfect. Vawter occasionally stumbled, but he was able to walk safely outside, climb down stairs, and kick a ball. The authors note that there are still challenges to refining the technique, in part because the electrodes can get uncomfortable.