April 26, 2006
The Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program will create, within this decade, a fully functional (motor and sensory) upper limb that responds to direct neural control. This revolution will occur by capitalizing on decades of previous DARPA investments in neuroscience, robotics, sensors, power systems, and actuation. In particular, this program builds on DSO's HAND Program, which has recently decoded the brain's motor signals with such fidelity that motor movements of a robotic arm can be achieved entirely by direct brain control. In two years, DSO will deliver a prosthetic for clinical trials that is far more advanced than any currently available. This device will enable many degrees of freedom for grasping and other hand functions, and will be rugged and resilient to environmental factors. In four years, DSO will deliver a prosthetic for clinical trials that has function almost identical to a natural limb in terms of motor control and dexterity, sensory feedback (including proprioception), weight, and environmental resilience. The four-year device will be directly controlled by neural signals. The results of this program will allow upper limb amputees to have as normal a life as possible despite their severe injuries.
COL Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., comes to DARPA from a recent tenure as professor and Acting Chair of the Department of Neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). He received his doctorate in pharmacology from Cornell University's Graduate School of Medical Sciences and his medical degree from Georgetown University. He completed his neurology residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, conducted further studies under a neuropharmacology research fellowship at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and completed a neurointensive care fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In addition to his DARPA programs, he serves on the critical care staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. His research interests focus on brain and spinal cord injury, particularly that which is relevant to the military. His work studied diagnostic and therapeutic responses as well as elucidation of the basic mechanisms of penetrating injury.