Amputee Feels Texture With Bionic Fingertip
If you’re an 80’s kid, you’re sure to remember sitting in front to the BTV waiting for the theme song of Six Million Dollar man to come on. The idea that a man torn to bits in a crash could still walk and talk and do amazing feats of action was totally a fantasy. But not anymore!
Scientists have been working on prosthetic limbs for some time; a new innovation has now enabled these limbs to be directly connected to the nerves of the amputee, so that signals can flow directly between the brain and the prosthetic.
For the first time, scientists have attached a bionic fingertip to an amputee to see if he is able to discern between smooth and rough surfaces in real time. This experiment was carried out with the help of Dennis Sorenson of Denmark, an amputee, whose hand was cut off at the elbow after he was involved in a fireworks accident. Sorenson says that his arm was immediately amputated after he was taken to the hospital and to this day, to this day he still feels like he is clenching his fist as when it was when it was removed.
The researchers hooked Sorenson up to a bionic hand that helped him to differentiate if the material he was holding in his hand and if the material was soft, hard, round or square. The scientist took this one step further when they wanted to see if he could feel the difference between a smooth and rough surface. Co-author of study, Silvestro Micera, head of the translation neural engineering lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has said that the more closer they are to imitating the natural sense of touch, the more useable the product will be.
The study involved the researchers to attach a stamp size artificial fingertip attached to electrodes surgically implanted in Sorensen’s arm, just above the stub. The tip was then rubbed over objects that were engraved with smooth or rough edges. Electrical Sensors sent spiked signals to the brain, which was then interpreted by Sorenson. He says that he felt everything as it were his own fingers toughing the objects. Lead author of the study Calogero Oddo, says that they were amazed at the fast learning system that only took 15 minutes to deliver and retain its first result.
The study was cross examined on non-amputees but did not come out as satisfactory due to the possible fact that no electrodes could be attached to their nervous system. The team hopes to shift to clinical trails within the next 5 years and make the product available to all disabled people who can be helped.