Functional Electrodes ‘Restore’ Touch Sense to Amputees

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For many years lost limbs were replaced by cosmetic hands and legs.  Then, in a revolutionary manner gradual improvements resulted in fully functional but mechanical, prosthetics. Now the amputees can also have a life-like prosthetic through which they can feel the object they touch.

Daniel Moran and his team had developed an innovative electrode at Washington University in St. Louis after a three year, $1.9 billion DARPA project.  When the electrode (macro-sieve peripheral nerve interface) is connected to the human nervous system reportedly allows its users to feel heat, cold and pressure by stimulating the ulnar and median nerves of the upper arm.  Actually it is a thin contact lens-like material less than a fifth in diameter of a dime.

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However, Moran’s team have to find out the natural sensory system of humans by experimenting with primates using a technique known as current steering. Using the data he hopes to achieve accurate sensor that is compatible with humans, like the Luke Hand that Segway inventor Dean Kamen, DARPA is already building.  The Luke arm is capable of understanding multiple commands at once, giving its wearers “near-natural” control of the limb.

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