- Posted December 8, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Technology and Sensation
Although advances in prosthetic arms are creating increasingly dexterous limbs (and this is arms rather than legs - the latter are far simpler beasts, mechanically speaking) the ability to convey sensory input has been far less developed.
Now, researchers from the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University have developed a new electronic ‘cuff electrode’ that is implanted into a patient to convey a range of sensations from 20 spots located on a prosthetic hand.
The video below shows the technology in action, fitted to 48-year-old Igor Spetic of Madison, Ohio, and one of the two patients to have been fitted with the interface so far. The implant is attached to three nerve bundles in the arm – the radial, median and ulnar, with each held by seven-millimeter ‘cuffs’.
Once the cuffs have been connected to the right nerves, Spetic reported feeling like the back of his hand and fingers were being touched, when the corresponding locations on the prosthetic hand came into contact with something.
The technology differs from previous nerve interfaces as it stimulates the axon – the protective sheath that surrounds the nerve fibres – rather than penetrating this layer of living cells. Whilst this offers a lower ‘resolution’ of touch, it means the interfaces work for longer – up to 18 months as opposed to a few weeks.