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Power of the Brain
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Jesse Sullivan, 54, became the first amputee in history to be fitted with a prosthesis that is powered by the brain. Sullivan, an electrician from Tennessee, lost both his arms after being severely electrocuted at work.   At first he was fitted with a conventional prosthesis, which he manipulated by moving his back and pressing tabs with his neck. However, doctors felt that he was a good candidate for an experimental prosthesis that is powered by signals from the brain.

Doctors at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago performed surgery on Sullivan, rewiring the nerves of his arm to connect them to his chest. His chest muscles are connected to electrodes, which send signals to a microcomputer in his prosthetic arm. When Sullivan thinks of moving his arm, his brain sends impulses to the nerves of his arm, which are now imbedded in his chest. The electrodes pick up those signals, and send the message to the prosthetic arm to move. Thanks to this high-tech prosthesis, Sullivan has a high degree of fine motor control - he can lift a glass with precisely the right amount of pressure, and can feed, dress and groom himself, all by the power of his mind alone.

We are all familiar with the brain's power to move our limbs, as we experience it with our own bodies. But what about the power of the mind to influence objects, people or events beyond the borders of its own body? Chassidic teachings lend tremendous weight to the mind's power of influence. Positive thoughts can generate positive outcomes in many areas - health, psychology, education and even world events. We see, for example, that a child who grows up surrounded by people who view her favorably is far more successful than one who is looked upon negatively. A patient who believes that he will get well has a generally better outcome than one who is pessimistic. Thoughts pass quickly from one person to the next, so that a few individuals who take a strong stance can be influential far beyond their numbers.

A common expression among Chassidim is "Think good and it will be good." This expression was coined by the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Chabad, who encouraged his Chassidim to take a positive view of even the most negative situation. The positive thoughts themselves have the power to transform the negative.

For 2,000 years, the Jewish People have survived exile and oppression by fixating their minds on one promise: G-d's assurance, through His prophets, that He would gather us in from exile and rebuild the Holy Temple. This one thought and belief has animated us and kept us going throughout the centuries, never weakening despite hardships and setbacks. Very soon, our faith will be vindicated, with the revelation of Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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