A 28-year-old man has been given a life-changing robotic hand that has helped him sense touch for the first time in 10 years.
The device allows him to have sensation in his hand by sending feedback signals to his brain.
Created by DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, the artificial limb is closest thing technology has to how the brain naturally interacts with our body.
“We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez in a statement.
“Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements.
"By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function.”
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The brain senses touch using a host of natural sensors and feedback loops.
Scientists were able to mimic this circuit quite closely by placing torque sensors in the artificial hand.
Each physical sensation was then converted into electrical signals and sent to the brain using wires.
In order for the right part of the brain to receive these crucial messages, electrode arrays were placed on the man's sensory cortex -- the region responsible for detecting pressure, DARAP said.
To convert these signals into movement, the team also placed electrode arrays on the motor cortex of the brain, which dictates body movement.
At one point, instead of pressing one finger, the team decided to press two without telling him,” said Sanchez.
“He responded in jest asking whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him. That is when we knew that the feelings he was perceiving through the robotic hand were near-natural.”