Prosthetic limbs have advanced in leaps and bounds over the past few decades, with some able to be controlled by the user's brain and others looking almost like the real thing.
There's one thing, however, that most prosthetic limbs don't have, and that is feeling. A prosthetic hand has been developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that uses neurotechnology to allow paralyzed patients to "feel" objects through their prosthetic. The prosthetic is so sensitive that sensations from each finger can be discerned.
The project was detailed through a report by DARPA, showing a 28-year-old man able to feel the sensation of touching an object through a prosthetic hand that was connected directly to his brain. All of this was thanks to the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.
According to research, there may be a future in which paralyzed people may be able to control things using only their minds and feel objects via their prosthetics. The technology can be applied to prosthetic limbs, and is not limited to the hand. "We've completed the circuit," said DARPA program manager Dr. Justin Sanchez. "Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function."
In this particular case, electrodes were placed on the sensory cortex of the brain, which is able to sense things like pressure. Arrays were also placed on the motor cortex of the brain, which can detect movement in the body. All of these sensors were then connected to a robotic hand with sensors of its own, which relayed information to the brain through those sensors.
With a little more development and refinement, the technology could be a massive breakthrough in prosthetic technology.