Bionic vs prosthetic limbs
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
In the media, it is not often that the future is portrayed as something to look forward to. Technological advancements, especially when these advancements interact directly with humans, are shown as dehumanizing. Well, call me an idealist, but I have never subscribed to this belief. I don’t think that the general population should be so quick to dismiss some of the really amazing scientific breakthroughs that we are experiencing now, including bionic limbs.
For anyone who doesn’t have to deal with the day-to-day reality of wearing a prosthetic limb—myself included—it can be easy to ignore or be unaware of what advantages a bionic appendage may claim. If you’re wondering about the difference between the two, you’re not alone. From what I’ve gathered, modern prosthetic limbs are artificial devices relying on external force or stimuli to perform a function. A step is taken by a person physically lifting and shifting the leg, as opposed to a natural limb where we have muscles and nerves within it to let our various biological components know to take the step. To use a crude analogy, it’s basically the difference between having to pick up a heavy box versus using a fork lift.
Bionic limbs use electro-mechanics to better mimic the function of nerves. These are both internal and external, meaning they can be attached on the surface of the skin, and they can be surgically implanted. This alone makes the manipulation of the artificial limb more akin to a natural process, because it creates a line of communication between the mechanics of the appendage and the brain. The brain can then control the artificial limb as it would a natural one, as opposed to the individual having to consciously lift and shift as they would a prosthetic limb. In doing so you not only create a better language of movement—meaning the individual can move more naturally, even right after amputation—but you also reduce fatigue for the operator.
Due to the use of integrated (internally implanted) bionics, we not only have the opportunity to better bridge the gap for individuals who have missing limbs, we are also presented with a future where restoring sensation, such as touch and sight, isn’t very far off.
While I find all of this fascinating from an outsider perspective, I am also well aware of how this might change someone’s life. I have never had to deal with being physically limited, and I don’t want anyone else to either. Thankfully, that might not be a problem for long.