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June 13, 1980

Better artificial arms under development

JAMA. 1980;243(22):2277-2281. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300480007004

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An expression of intense concentration on his face, a scientist at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, sits before an artificial arm mounted on a table in his laboratory. Two electrodes attached to his own upper arm channel impulses into a microcomputer that in turn can activate tiny motors in the prosthesis.

Without physically moving his limbs, the IIT engineer can flex the elbow of the experimental prosthesis, turn the wrist and, in an almost eerie manner, open and close the lifelike fist. The engineer's own body is whole, but his work with artificial limbs controlled by electrical impulses from the brain promises much-improved function for amputees, persons with congenital malformations, and even stroke victims and paralyzed patients.

The investigator is Daniel Graupé, PhD, professor of engineering at IIT. Though muscle-activated artificial limbs have been in use and even sold commercially for more than ten years, the work of