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Medicine Science

Bionic Implants and Spectrum Clash 98

angry tapir writes "The battle over scarce radio spectrum that has embroiled the mobile broadband world even extends to a little-known type of wireless network that promises to reconnect the human nervous system with paralyzed limbs. At its monthly meeting next week, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider whether four sets of frequencies between 413MHz and 457MHz can be used by networks of sensors implanted in patients who suffer from various forms of paralysis. One intended purpose of these MMNS (medical micropower network systems) is to transmit movement commands from a sensor on a patient's spinal cord, through a wearable MCU (master control unit), to implants that electrically stimulate nerves."
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Bionic Implants and Spectrum Clash

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  • by BenJCarter ( 902199 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:45PM (#38154428)
    The fact that wireless signals might move the body randomly (or worse), seems dangerous. What about conductive tattoos instead?
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:57PM (#38154518) Homepage

    From the sound of it, prosthetic designers and engineers are planning devices that operate on single frequencies.

    The animal brains and nervous systems operate quite a bit differently. The signals do not often rely in a single path or a single signal to make things happen. To transmit a true, low-power signal, multiple paths and multiple signal details are transmitted where it is the collection of these signals which spell out the truth. If there are minor glitches, interferences or inhibitions along the way, the general signal still gets through most of the time.

    If they are thinking of making a brain to prosthetic control signalling system based on wireless communications, it would be a huge mistake not to use multiple signals and frequencies to make things happen as this is the way the brain and the nervous system already does things.

    I find this to be the mistake they are likely to make as they made the same mistake with artificial blood circulation system which are intended to keep the body alive during heart surgeries. Initially, they just hooked up a streaming pump and wondered why the body wasn't working or surviving under that condition. Well, turns out that the body NEEDS the pumping and gushing style of blood circulation because as the blood is pushed, it still needs those moments of pause to absorb and distribute oxygen and other stuff like that.

    I expect the mistake to be made. Now let's sit back and wait for it to come true.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:03PM (#38154568) Homepage Journal

    Optic fibre seems the way to go. Carries the maximum amount of data and is the least prone to interference. It is also already used by some sea sponges instead of regular nerves, so it is a known biological solution. You can convert the optics into electrical impulses in the bionic implant and vice versa. If you went this route, then future iterations could involve unthreading dead nerves from the spinal cord and running the fibre down it. Increased protection from damage and increased compatibility with how the body works.

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:26PM (#38154654) Journal

    This is not a problem. You take a body stocking made of lycra (this serves both as a scaffolding for signal transmission and reception and with small actuators it could also serve to enhance circulation, exercise muscle groups and protect the wearer from minor scrapes and scratches.) On the skin side of the suit, you place a mesh of conductive fibers and control nodes all over the entire body creating a large network of antennas for transmitting and receiving signals anywhere on the body. The outside of the body suit has a tight mesh attached to a device that converts ambient RF energy into useable electricity. It also serves as a highly effective barrier between signals inside and outside of the suit. By ensuring that the signals inside the suit are at least a couple orders of magnitude larger than the signals from outside the suit, the problem of unwanted control of the users limbs is rendered moot.

    One other idea might be to make the suit opaque and use an optical network with light fibers and choose IR frequencies that pass readily through human flesh to the neural interfaces. This produces no external signals if the suit is in fact optically opaque, and the isolation from the external environment would be absolute (save the flash from something like a thermonuclear device and then the crosstalk with the bionics is probably the least of one's concerns :-)

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:42PM (#38154730) Journal
    I was thinking about the villains in old western movies who would shoot their 'six guns' at someone's feet and tell them to dance. Hackers could take this to a whole new level.

I've got a bad feeling about this.