Losing a limb may not mean that you have to lose mobility and sensation anymore. Researchers at the University of Chicago are working on a prosthetic limb that not only gives its wearer mobility but is also touch sensitive. The idea is that one day the prosthetic could relay touch sensory information, in real time, to the brain.
Their research will help to develop a modular limb. This limb not only restore the mobility of the arm but also the sensation. The sensation of touch can be mimicked by electrical impulses to the brain, according to University of Chicago’s senior researcher, Dr. Sliman Bensmaia.
Along with his team at the University, Dr. Bensmaia has studied how monkey brains react to different touch sensations. By mapping the neurological reaction they have been able to connect electrodes to the areas of the brain that corresponded to each reaction. When electrical stimuli was delivered the monkeys reacted the same as if it was physical contact.
The group also studied the sensation of pressure. By developing an algorithm to generate appropriate amounts of electrical current, they were able to successfully garner the same response as physical pressure.
The algorithms created by these scientists can go a long way to making a robotic prosthetic that can react more like a real limb. Right now the group is still working with animal trials but hope to move into human trial soon, thanks to the positive results they have received. When human trials begin and all the bugs are worked out we could be looking at the possibility of a real “Six Million-Dollar Man” after all.