Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

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Shudouken
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Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Shudouken » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

Is it possible to translate nerve signals? (like in fullmetal alchemist, if you happen to know the show xD)
For those who don't, I was thinking of a scenario like this: A boulder or car or whatever crushes a mans hand, and then the doctors make a clean cut and "add" a translation device, in which they put a mechanical arm that recieves the translated electrical impulses, which is then calibrated to work excactly like the old hand?

I was thinking about musicians playing the guitar and then loosing their hand.. would be awesome to make it possible for them to play properly again

I don't know how far advanced that technology of artificial nerves is right now, but if it advances further like that, wouldn't it be possible to "bypass" paraplegia?
That would be so awesome :)
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clean cut amputation :P

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justaman
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby justaman » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:32 pm UTC

Basically yes, with a few caveats...

For a while now there has been the technology to turn nerve impulses into signals that sensors can pick up and turn into motion for artificial limbs, but the technology is not advanced enough to be able to perform exactly like a hand would yet. For example, we have the ability to turn some nerve impluses into opening and closing of a 3 pronged fork (equivalent to thumb and first two fingers) for picking things up etc, but no way of sending impluses back up from the fork to tell us that contact has been made and we should stop applying more pressure, so these devices tend to crush/break cups and other things that are picked up. We also have no way to sense that something is hot or cold etc, and no proprioception at all. I am sure these problems will be worked out given time, but there is quite a bit of work to be done.
Felstaff wrote:"deglove"? I think you may have just conjured the sickest image within my mind since I heard the term "testicle pop".

Shudouken
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Shudouken » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:44 pm UTC

justaman wrote:Basically yes, with a few caveats...

For a while now there has been the technology to turn nerve impulses into signals that sensors can pick up and turn into motion for artificial limbs, but the technology is not advanced enough to be able to perform exactly like a hand would yet. For example, we have the ability to turn some nerve impluses into opening and closing of a 3 pronged fork (equivalent to thumb and first two fingers) for picking things up etc, but no way of sending impluses back up from the fork to tell us that contact has been made and we should stop applying more pressure, so these devices tend to crush/break cups and other things that are picked up. We also have no way to sense that something is hot or cold etc, and no proprioception at all. I am sure these problems will be worked out given time, but there is quite a bit of work to be done.


Ah thanks, I can see the problematic there.. Also, I bet they don't have enough willing test candidates for stuff like that to make progress quickly

Rackum
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Rackum » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:43 pm UTC

Shudouken wrote:
justaman wrote:Basically yes, with a few caveats...

For a while now there has been the technology to turn nerve impulses into signals that sensors can pick up and turn into motion for artificial limbs, but the technology is not advanced enough to be able to perform exactly like a hand would yet. For example, we have the ability to turn some nerve impluses into opening and closing of a 3 pronged fork (equivalent to thumb and first two fingers) for picking things up etc, but no way of sending impluses back up from the fork to tell us that contact has been made and we should stop applying more pressure, so these devices tend to crush/break cups and other things that are picked up. We also have no way to sense that something is hot or cold etc, and no proprioception at all. I am sure these problems will be worked out given time, but there is quite a bit of work to be done.


Ah thanks, I can see the problematic there.. Also, I bet they don't have enough willing test candidates for stuff like that to make progress quickly

Google the HAND project by DARPA, they're getting pretty advanced with the human assisted neural devices (get it?).

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justaman
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby justaman » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:40 pm UTC

Shudouken wrote:Ah thanks, I can see the problematic there.. Also, I bet they don't have enough willing test candidates for stuff like that to make progress quickly

I don't think volunteers are the problem - I am sure many of the people with these sorts of injuries are not happy to have only one functional hand, or not be able to walk - it is more the expense and difficulty matching the equipment with the patient. T

he duration from time of injury plays a big role, if it has been too long, there is a good chance that the nerves have atrophied so they won't work any more. IIRC, most of these sorts of prosthetics are done using nerves from other muscles to act as the triggers (e.g. using the muscles around the pectorals to control the arm) - this means there is a lot of learning involved in getting the motions correct, and it is different for every-one.
Felstaff wrote:"deglove"? I think you may have just conjured the sickest image within my mind since I heard the term "testicle pop".

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nash1429
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby nash1429 » Mon Dec 20, 2010 6:58 am UTC

justaman wrote:. The duration from time of injury plays a big role, if it has been too long, there is a good chance that the nerves have atrophied so they won't work any more.


It's my understanding that the nerves are taken over by other parts of the brain rather than dying.

DrSir
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby DrSir » Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:45 am UTC

nash1429 wrote:
justaman wrote:. The duration from time of injury plays a big role, if it has been too long, there is a good chance that the nerves have atrophied so they won't work any more.


It's my understanding that the nerves are taken over by other parts of the brain rather than dying.


The ones in the brain do, like if you lose the ability to see that region changes. But I don't think that's true for peripheral nerves, such as in an amputated arm or leg, right? As previously said, it'd just atrophy?

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justaman
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby justaman » Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:29 pm UTC

Atrophy =/dying. The nerves are still there and working to some extent, hence phantom limb sensations etc.
Felstaff wrote:"deglove"? I think you may have just conjured the sickest image within my mind since I heard the term "testicle pop".

jwwells
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby jwwells » Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:48 am UTC

Solution to peripheral nerve damage/atrophy: HOOK IT ALL DIRECTLY TO THE BRAIN.

I'm kidding. Sort of. We're not very good at that right now, anyway.

Novae D'Arx
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Novae D'Arx » Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:58 am UTC

justaman wrote:Atrophy =/dying. The nerves are still there and working to some extent, hence phantom limb sensations etc.


Mmmm.... KIND of.

It seems a bit more complicated than that; you can have fully intact nerves but "alien limb" syndrome where the brain does not "see" the limb as its own. Think of it as the exact opposite of phantom limb - the "ghost" of the limb is gone, but the limb remains... It's very, very disturbing for sufferers.

Anyway, there's at least two different mechanisms in place for the body's sensation of a limb- the nerves that enervate it and the part of the brain that translates that into our proprioception sense (where all our bits are in relation to each other at a given time, like a mental voodoo doll).

I've worked with amputees, and of the ones that adapted best to the prosthetics, almost all of them said they had to maintain their phantom limbs - slapping the stump until it "appeared", thinking about it until it "faded in"... They all had slightly different methods of getting it in place when wearing the prosthetic, but it seems that you have to trick the brain into seeing a limb where there isn't one to really use it like a natural extension of the self.

So, you can have the most turbo hi-tech prosthetic limb in the world, but it won't do you any good unless you can also fool the brain separately. Just having the nerves mesh up at the amputation site isn't enough, it seems. That's why so many amputees reject their prosthetics, or use them only if they have to - it's akin to an alien limb syndrome, and I've had amputees actually *shudder* when talking about doing their physical therapy when they've "rejected" the prosthetic. It's apparently very unpleasant have something on your body that doesn't feel like it should be there - ever reached to an arm, your neck or head and discovered *something* there that shouldn't be?

No, really. Imagine that feeling of suddenly finding a fat, fuzzy something on your back that you didn't feel until you touched it with your hand. Now you can feel the weight on there, that few seconds of your brain's confusion trying to parse the input of "should be me but it's not-me because it's not in my me-model and... (then) EEEWEEEWGETITOFFGEROOFFFAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!". It's not true for everyone, but almost all of us have had it sooner or later. Now imagine it attached to your arm or leg, and it's just there. Yeah. Nice.

Only now are many hospitals even thinking about hooking patients up with psych treatment in order to accept the limb as "self", and there's still not even close to being a standard set for... Um, "Limb Acceptance Therapy?" See, I don't even know if there's an official term for it. I don't really think so.

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justaman
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby justaman » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:17 pm UTC

I guess that "rejection" is from the lack of proprioception in the prosthetic?
Felstaff wrote:"deglove"? I think you may have just conjured the sickest image within my mind since I heard the term "testicle pop".

Novae D'Arx
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Novae D'Arx » Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:08 am UTC

justaman wrote:I guess that "rejection" is from the lack of proprioception in the prosthetic?


Basically, yeah. The mind's expectation of where everything is on the body (proprioception) is being violated - a big part of early and aggressive physical therapy in amputees is to help minimize this; if your brain changes the model to subtract a limb, it's really frickin' hard to get it to put one back, if at all.

If you catch it early, you can fool it into seeing the prosthetic as the missing limb, so the proprioceptive sense is not violated. These patients seem to take to their prosthetics much better than the others - seriously, there's a violently sharp divide between prosthetic users. One group uses them routinely and comfortably, like wearing a pair of glasses - once you're used to them, it feels really weird to not have them on. The other group wears the prosthetics as little as possible, avoids them whenever they can, and usually ends up just sticking them in the closet and coping as well as possible without them. The latter group usually loses a great deal of daily life function (depending on the prosthetic(s) involved) and/or mobility because of this.

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Afif_D
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Afif_D » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:04 am UTC

Yeah.. It can be done. Infact it has been done. I saw one man on ripleys believe it or not wid that sort of leg implanted. but the problem is that it is too slow a stuff. Nothing compares to our natural and original parts.
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Re: Is it possible to translate nerve signals?

Postby Novae D'Arx » Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:39 pm UTC

Afif_D wrote:Yeah.. It can be done. Infact it has been done. I saw one man on ripleys believe it or not wid that sort of leg implanted. but the problem is that it is too slow a stuff. Nothing compares to our natural and original parts.


Yeah, maybe right NOW... But just wait until I get Verizon into get my FTTC set up.

(Fiber To The Cortex, that is.)


As for the rest... I doubt that was a production-level device. It was probably a prototype, meant to collect data and set up for the next, more streamlined device. But.

The problem isn't speed; it's the lack of feedback. Turns out that haptics is hard enough with all your limbs intact, let alone when you're trying to simulate the sensation of a missing limb... The "slowness" you see is necessary compensation - using visual feedback instead of proprioceptive and learned spinal movement sets coded into the cerebellum.

So, um, yeah. Good times.


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