Scientists have created a prosthetic hand which can ‘feel’ and distinguish the size and shape of objects.
The hand helped an amputee who had not experienced the sensation of touch for ten years to feel differences in the shape and stiffness of objects again.
Amputee Denis Aabo Serensen could tell, while blindfolded, between a mandarin orange and a baseball.
Sensors surgically implanted in the amputee’s arm used electrical stimulation to jump start residual sensory fibers.
The information from the prosthetic sensors was communicated through the implanted microelectrodes into the patient’s nervous system.
The findings suggest it may one day be possible to build prosthetic hands capable of feeling other sensations such as texture or temperature.
Stanisa Raspopovic, of the BioRobotics Institute in Pisa, Italy, and colleagues report their findings today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers performed a series of experiments with the prosthetic hand, testing its ability to increase or decrease grasp force.
The hand allowed the patient to experience almost-natural sensory feelings similar to his other, natural hand, without any particular training.
The patient was also able to distinguish the different consistencies of hard, medium, and soft objects, and to recognise basic shapes such as the cylinder of a bottle.
The researchers next plan to test the “feeling” prosthetic hand in a pilot clinical study with more patients.
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