Bionic Hand Gives Amputee Real-Time Touch Sensation

By Gemma Tarlach | February 5, 2014 12:59 pm
prosthetic-hand

Amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen wearing the sensory-feedback prosthesis. Credit: LifeHand 2/Patrizia Tocci

Warning: This is a touchy-feely kind of story.

Researchers have designed a new kind of prosthetic hand that allowed an amputee to experience the sensation of touch in real-time again. The prosthetic, which uses microelectric implants and sensors to create sensation, made it possible for the individual to distinguish between objects of varying shape and rigidity, such as a baseball and an orange.

Touch Restored

bionic-hand

Credit: LifeHand 2/Patrizia Tocci

The bionic hand creates sensation for the wearer via a multi-step process. First, sensors in the prosthetic detect and measure changes in the positions of artificial tendons that control finger movement. (Think, for example, of how your fingers move as you run your hands over an object.) The measurements are translated via computer algorithms into an electrical signal that the human nervous system can understand.

These signals are then transmitted to four electrodes implanted in remaining nerves of the wearer’s arm — the first time, researchers say, that electrode implantation into an amputee’s peripheral nervous system has been accomplished.

Researchers released the below video showing Dennis Aabo Sørensen, who lost his hand nearly a decade ago, test driving the new prosthetic with enthusiasm.

The Future of Prosthetics

The bionic hand, called Lifehand 2, is the result of a collaboration between a number of European universities and hospitals. Its design team, publishing their results in today’s Science Translational Medicine, noted they were presenting a single case study and much more research needs to be done. However, they said, their initial success could become the foundation for designing far more advanced artificial limbs that might be able to detect temperature, texture and other sensations.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: medical technology
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    One subtle sensation for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

  • Herne Webber

    Now all they need to do is get an anthropological artist to create ‘bones’ of the right shapes and sizes of a real hand (think The Terminator), cover this with synthetic skin, and we’re one more step toward Cylonisation. Of course, it would be even better if they could get real skin to grow over the artificial limb. The combination of this kind of nervous stimulation combined with new nerves growing within the new skin matrix, could return normal life to people. Or, like the Six-Million Dollar Man, create something with the potential to help us be even better (in some senses) than before.

  • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

    Religion has NEVER replaced a limb. Science has, and this is like version 1.0. In 10 years, amputees might have limbs that are only marginally different than biological ones. And we’ll have to do testing at the Olympics. Seriously, that’s going to be a problem.

    • Jon

      You are an idiot. Religion has never replaced a limb? Neither has music, art, archeology, language, etc. Wtf does it even mean for religion to replace a limb? When did religion ever say it could replace a limb? Go take your atheist religion-hating self and gtfo

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