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Watch This Double Amputee Make History -- With His Brain

Les Baugh probably didn’t see himself making history anytime soon when he lost both arms in a freak electrical accident 40 years ago. But that’s exactly what he did this past December at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory when he became the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear two robotic limbs and simultaneously operate them — with his mind alone.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have been developing Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPLs) for years as part of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, but Baugh is the first person to have the MLP  integrated into his body, the laboratory reported last month. This past summer, Baugh underwent a surgery known as target muscle reinnervation, “a relatively new surgical procedure that reassigns nerves once controlled by the arm and hand,” Johns Hopkins Trauma Surgeon Albert Chi explained in a press release. “By reassigning existing nerves, we can make it possible for people who have had upper-arm amputations to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform.”

Following the surgery, Baugh was fitted with a socket, a sort of body brace that holds the prosthetic limbs and makes the neurological connections with the reinnervated nerves. Shortly after, he was picking up and moving objects with his new arms. Baugh turned out to be an exceptional candidate, and researchers were “floored,” with what he was able to accomplish with just ten days of training, according to a press release.

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Baugh’s success is a huge breakthrough in the world of prosthetics and suggests that similar opportunities are not far off for amputees who thought they’d long lost the use of their limbs.

Watch Les Baugh and his new prosthetics in action below.

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