The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) by the U.S. government was able to come up with a prosthetic arm that enabled a paralyzed man to restore his sense of touch.

The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, was a 28-year old victim of spinal cord injury, which placed him in a state of paralysis for 10 years now. He was given a prosthetic limb that is said to be equipped with sensors that are connected to the brain. After the testings, DARPA declared that the man was the first ever patient who was able to sense when the prosthetic fingers were being stimulated.

The team has fulfilled the circuit said Justin Sanchez, who supervises the program at DARPA. By connecting a sense of touch from a prosthetic hand directly to the brain, the device was able to show that the possibility of clear bio-technological sustenance of an almost natural ability may be possible.

According to the military research agency, the paralyzed volunteer was able to accurately identify the mechanical finger being stimulated in an almost perfect rate. According to the man, he felt like it was really his own hand that was being pressed.

The device works by intensifying the prosthetic hand with a series of pressure-responsive motors that are connected to the brain. Every time the said limb gets in contact with something, the hand transmits electrical impulses that may be perceived as a normal skin-bone contact. Through a software update, the ability to distinguish which part of the arm is being touched was added to the technology. The motion of the arm is made possible by the wires in the prosthetic hand that are connected to the motor cortex of the brain. The ability of the patient to feel the sensation, on the other hand, is controlled by the pressure sensors that are wired to the sensory cortex of the brain.

The actual prosthetic hand, which was developed by experts at the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, has a long way to go for it to become like the real thing. The device does not cover the whole hand and is not sensitive to temperatures and other factors that might make people worry should they touch particular things. Nonetheless, this invention should signify that big things are ahead. Should this technology prosper and become fully developed, paralyzed individuals and amputees may be given the chance to restore their tactile functionalities.

Photo: MilitaryHealth | Flickr

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