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Latest Advance in Medical Technology – Brain-Machine Interface

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The traditional line between engineering and medical science is growing ever thinner as the technology continues to drive the pace of progress in biomedical research and healthcare. The medical device industry is making medical practice more effective for patients, easier for doctors, and thus cheaper for the entire healthcare system, thanks to the medical machines and the computers that power them become faster, smaller, and smarter. The convergence of consumer-focused technology into the once-rarified world of device design is one of the sweeping changes in the medical technology field as per the observers.

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President Obama asserted over a renewed focus on the development of more advanced artificial limbs and other prosthetic devices in his 2015 State of the Union Address. At least 6 million Americans are paralyzed, and 100,000 others live with an upper-arm amputation. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has redoubled its efforts to drive performance in response. They are also working on reducing the six-figure price tag of existing devices that translate a user’s neural signals into computer-controlled limb movements. Since their highly-publicized debut since 2012, the brain-machine interface (BMI) technologies have advanced rapidly. Contrary to the old method of the direct implant of a sensor into the brain, the new researches are focusing on the use of external devices such as headsets to transfer brain signals to wheelchairs, limbs, or other assistive technologies.

Developed by materials scientists and engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a unique approach on paralysis repair doing the rounds is to regenerate damaged spinal cord tissue with spinal implants made of multifunctional, thinner than human hair polymer fibers. The technology could one day improve the treatment not only of spinal cord injury but also of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders from Parkinson’s disease to schizophrenia.

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