Brain implant designed for prosthesis

The pursuit to develop a bionic arm that can connect to the human brain took a step forward with the Tuesday announcement that National Institutes of Health scientists had developed a wireless brain implant that operates a prosthesis.

The implant translates the electronic activity sparked by the brain and turns it into a digital signal that can move the prosthesis. The key, though, is that the implant is wireless and connects directly to the prosthesis without the need of additional wires.

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency started the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in 2006 and have made major advances in prosthesis technology. Operating a prosthetic arm or leg naturally with a simple thought has been a goal of the program.

DARPA had developed a hard wired connection that required wires that ran from the head to a computer and then more wires to the prosthesis. A wireless connection directly to a bionic arm or leg would provide a much more streamlined design.

The 2-inch titanium implant communicates with the prosthesis with electromagnectic signals. It recharges itself through induction.

NIH scientists have tested the wireless brain implant on pigs and rhesus monkeys for more than a year. Military Times broke the story on Wednesday.

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Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • blight_

    NIH is going to take a beating because the JSF is more important.

    • DavidLight

      Sad but true. May be time to rethink priorities….

      • blight_

        It’s sad, but true.


    So now we have the capability to hard wire a brain to a non human body part. I wonder what the training regime is for these hardened veterans. Must be long and intense. Honestly, this is what DARPA should be doing. Making medical strides like this. Go team DARPA!

    • Belesari

      Saw a video years ago with a man using the first one of these. Wasn’t implanted but the guy hadn’t been able to feed himself sense he lost both arms in vietnam.

      Well the guy was able to use these fast and like any other because they follow the same paths as the original. Your brain gets to understand it. Basically it rewires itself.

      Hell they can get a monkey to do it quickly.


        Hmm. Well if you can just strap yourself in and get going, then this may be the future of prosthesis. That is until we can biologically grow a new body part.

  • aaothead

    Having lost a leg I find this very interesting, though no doubt I’m too old for it to develop in time for me. But good news anyway.


      Hey, anything is possible. The only thing required is for this tech to be easy to manufacture and implement.

    • blight_

      You missed a fun tidbit about the guys at Duke who connected two mouse brains together, and transmitted information from one brain to the other.

      Now /that’s/ something. There’s a generation of young soldiers who will hopefully get something better than a plastic prostheses.

  • d. kellogg

    media gurus and political pundits and all the naysayers can downplay the justification and sense of it all for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars all they want,
    but the reality is,
    the prosthetics technology , burn care, and brain injury fields of medical science has NEVER progressed at a faster pace.
    All of these will have longer term benefit in the civilian sector than the anti-war baglicks will ever give credit for.

    We saw similarities coming out of WW2 as well: the technology curve spurred on by warfare development has led to greater civilian sector benefits than the peaceniks care to recognize.


      Well that is true. A lot of common things we take granted today have origins in the military. Like duct tape. Or duck tape. Whatever. Medicine such as blood transfusions and penicillin found root from the needs of the military.

  • yesjb

    This is just the beginning folks!
    Remember the Apple II….and now…!
    The prostheses will get better as will the ways to communicate with them.
    And with further research a way to regrow nerve tissue and even limbs will become a reality.
    Perhaps not everything is possible, but it’s certainly worth trying!

  • oktoberskyy

    Big E. I agree with you that DARPA is doing a great thing, I also agree on your point that out of terrible things, good things can emerge.
    I think that the missing link here is the DNA and stem cell research to be able to regrow / regenerate body parts that have been lost.
    Is it possible? anything is possible as long as it is not done with black market Chinese technology.


      I am sure it is possible. But the trouble is all the pesky environmental and animal rights activists. I swear all the want is the steady loss of scientific knowledge based on animals and the environment because they wrongly think that we kill plants and animals for no reason. I am sure that progress in “regenerating” new limbs and fledglings and, eventually, organs is far, just lacking funding. As for China coming up with such tech, I HIGHLY doubt it. Their labor force simply don’t have the expertise to make such equipment, as sterilization and quality aren’t easy to find in the Chinese sweatshops.

  • SFP

    Saw a video years ago with a man using the first one of these. Wasn’t implanted but the guy hadn’t been able to feed himself sense he lost both arms in vietnam.