imageHere’s an interesting post from Slashdot today:

“New Scientist reports on a patent application that suggests implanting polymer muscles beneath the skin of people suffering paralysis of the face to give them control of their features. The technique has already been used successfully to reanimate the eyelids of human cadavers. Movement could be returned to other facial features and even paralyzed limbs in the same way, the surgeons at University of California Davis say. The full patent application is also available on the WIPO site.”

More from the New Scientist:

Now surgeons Craig Senders and Travis Tollefson of the University of California, Davis, plan to change that by using artificial polymer muscles to reanimate the facial features of people suffering from severe paralysis.

“The face is an area where natural-appearing active prosthetics would be particularly welcome,” they write in a recent patent application. They believe their approach provides a solution, and report having tested it successfully on cadavers.

A polymer muscle anchored to the skull, labelled “41”, pulls on cords that connect to the upper and lower eyelids of both eyes.

If a patient tries to close their eyes, the effort triggers electrical activity in the muscles that would normally close the eyelids. The polymer muscle detects this activity and contracts, pulling on its cords to fully close the eyelids.

Offer methods could be used to control the polymer muscle for differing circumstances, they say. If a person has lost control of only one eye (after a stroke, for example) the system could monitor the activity of the healthy eye and synchronise the actions of the paralysed one to match.

The patent also envisages using other sensors to close the eyes in bright light, or if an object moves close to the eye. Timing systems could also be used to simulate natural blinking patterns.

In other words, the face could work better than the original (other than, of course, the inability to actually feel anything).