Losing the feeling of touch is just as terrible as any of the worst losses one can possibly imagine. Scientists have recently invented a brand new robotic hand which, when connected directly in a man’s brain, allowed the paralysed man to feel once more. Designed by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, this new prosthetic is a constituent of one research project in advanced replacement limbs. The project is said to have been financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The paralyzed man, aged 28 years, has been unable to feel anything in his surroundings for over ten long years. This is due to a severe accident he had which damaged his spinal cord. This has now changed for better once the scientists inserted the electrodes belonging to the prosthetic hand in the man’s motor and sensory cortexes. Not only was he then able to control his renewed hand by the help of his thoughts, but he could also individually identify each time one of his fingers was touched by someone or something.
The sensors present in a person’s hands are capable of detecting pressure on any of the five fingers. Upon sensing this pressure, they create new electrical signals which mirror the sensation of touch. The paralysed man was able to accurately tell which finger was separately touched even after he was blindfolded. The team of scientists even touched two of his fingers at the same time once without informing him of the test but he was still alert to the situation. The scientists then concluded that the feeling he had through the prosthetic hand was almost natural.
The DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez is of the view that prosthetic limbs are showing great promise in regards to being controlled by one’s thoughts. He still believes that it is tough to mimic natural control over movements with no feedback traveling back to one’s brain. With the electrodes inserted in the cortexes and wired directly to the man’s brain, they were able to nearly restore the natural manner of movement. Scientists hope to make more breakthroughs and enhance this even further in the years to come.