Levi HargroveThree-time University of New Brunswick graduate, Levi Hargrove and his colleagues at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago unveiled the latest prototype in their development of the world’s first bionic leg this week. Their groundbreaking results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

Hargrove and his research team made headlines last year when Zac Vawter climbed the stairs of the 103-story Willis Tower wearing the revolutionary bionic leg.  Vawter lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009.

When Vawter wants to move his leg, signals travel from his brain, down his spine and hamstring muscle, and are picked up by electrodes in the bionic leg.  This allows him to walk up stairs and inclines as if the leg and foot were his own (watch the video).

Hargrove studied at UNB with Profs. Kevin Englehart and Bernie Hudgins, who were also instrumental in developing intelligent control for artificial arms.  Research conducted by Englehart’s students, Roua Razak and Dan Rogers from UNB’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, contributed to the sophisticated neural control of the smart leg. Englehart is currently director of UNB’s world-renowned Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

Hargrove grew up in Bath, N.B, and was exposed to electrical engineering at a very young age, as his father and grandfather are both engineers.  After taking a biomedical engineering course at UNB during his undergraduate years, he realized he had found the area in which he wanted to make a long-term career.

Mind control powers prototype bionic leg (Chicago Tribune)
Bionic leg is controlled by brain power (LA Times)
First mind-controlled bionic leg a ‘groundbreaking’ advance (NBC News)

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