Mind-Operated Robotics – the Future of Prosthetics

Mind-Operated Robotics pic

Mind-Operated Robotics
Image: livescience.com

Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, has a noted enthusiasm for the advancement of machine technologies, appreciating both the power and sophistication available in modern devices. Valerie Varnuska particularly enjoys learning about robotics, which is being integrated into medical science to create working prostheses that replace missing limbs.

Prostheses have existed since the time of the ancient Egyptians, more than 3,000 years. Until recently, the devices – simple pegs for balancing or hooks for lifting – had no articulation or motor function. But by the beginning of the 20th century, prosthetic legs were nearly indistinguishable from original limbs when covered by clothing.

Today, mechanical hands are available with articulated, joined fingers capable of tasks as delicate as holding a pencil or typing on a keyboard. The primary obstacle to creating such precision is the challenge of creating prostheses that allow the human nervous system to interact with electronics.

One new development that has shown great promise is targeted muscular reinnervation, in which severed nerves are attached to small muscles. Electrodes read the contraction of these muscles, driving a mechanical prosthetic to perform the same action the nerve originally controlled.

The next step in the evolution of this process involves inserting electrodes into the brain itself to replace the nerve signal entirely. This has been successfully tested in a Duke University experiment in which monkeys with electrode implants learned to feed themselves with a thought-controlled robotic arm.


Post-Roman Artifacts Uncovered at Tintagel

Tintagel in Cornwall, England

Tintagel in Cornwall, England

Fascinated by history and archaeology, Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, enjoys learning about people that lived long ago. Valerie Varnuska is specifically interested in art and artifacts that tell researchers about these communities and their lifestyles.

At the legendary palace of Tintagel in Cornwall, England, archaeologists are in the process of investigating a large and high-status settlement that may date back as far as the fifth century AD. Researchers have already uncovered several hundred buildings and hundreds of pieces of high-end pottery and glassware. The pottery and glass appears to be of Mediterranean origin and thus indicates the settlement as a center of trade with what would then have been the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.

The number of artifacts at the site suggest to researchers that it was not simply a trade outpost, but a place where such costly goods would have been used. The settlement may then have been a royal residence for the rulers of Dumnonia, a Celtic civilization active after the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain. Archaeologists hope that the excavation of the site will provide more information about the Dumnonian people, as well as insights into their trade with Byzantine peoples at a time when Roman rule had relinquished western Europe.