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28 October 2016

Nerve stimulation restores sense of touch to arm amputees

Two arm amputees felt realistic sensations of touch after receiving implanted devices containing electrodes attached to the nerves of the arm.

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Direct stimulation of the nervous system produced realistic sensations of touch in two arm amputees, researchers report.

A dexterous hand

Both men lost their arms after traumatic injuries. They received implanted devices containing electrodes that were attached to the nerves of the arm. These nerves would normally carry signals to and from the hand.

Read: Non-amputees experience 'Phantom' limb

"If you want to create a dexterous hand for use in an amputee or a quadriplegic patient, you need to not only be able to move it, but have sensory feedback from it," said researcher Sliman Bensmaia. He's a neuroscientist and associate professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago.

"To do this, we first need to look at how the intact hand and the intact nervous system encodes this information, and then, to the extent that we can, try to mimic that in a neuroprosthesis [a device that supplants or supplements the input/output of the nervous system]," Bensmaia explained in a university news release.

The paper was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In earlier related research, Bensmaia and colleagues said a paralysed man was able to experience the sense of touch through a robotic arm he could control with his brain. In that case, the electrode array was implanted in the areas of the brain responsible for hand movements and touch.

That paper was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Read more:

First double-leg transplant patient has limbs amputated

Scientists create biomechanical legs

Transplant gives amputee new hands

 
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