Swedish scientists connected the prosthetic arm directly to the nerves of the woman, allowing her to move her fingers with the help of her mind and even experience tactile sensations. This is a huge improvement over existing prostheses, which often rely on electrodes located on the outside of the skin.
Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) and biotech firm Integrum AB have created a prosthetic arm as part of the ambitious European limb prosthesis research program DeTOP.
Surgeons attached the prosthesis to two bones of the woman’s forearm (radial and ulnar) with titanium implants and connected 16 electrodes directly to her nerves and muscles, which allowed her to control her hand with her thoughts and use it to tie the laces and type on the keyboard. This is the first clinically viable, agile and sensitive hand prosthesis suitable for use in real life. This achievement is reported on the official website of the project.
“A breakthrough in our technology is to enable patients to use the implanted neuromuscular interfaces to control their prosthesis, while experiencing sensations that are important in everyday life,” says Ortiz Catalan, a staff member at Chalmers University.
Electronics connected to the human nervous system, allows you to create new ways to interact with technology. The video, which was released by Swedish scientists, shows how a woman uses an implant to manipulate a virtual hand on a computer screen, that is, even before the physical prosthesis itself was installed.
Conventional hand prostheses rely on electrodes located above the skin to extract control signals from the lower muscles of the human limb. These surface electrodes provide limited and unreliable signals that allow you to control only a couple of rough movements, such as clenching your palm into a fist.
Modern hand prostheses also have limited sensory feedback. They do not provide tactile or kinesthetic sensations, therefore, when using the prosthesis, a person could only rely on eyesight: for example, their owners cannot say how much they compress the object. By implanting electrodes into nerves that were previously associated with lost biological “sensors” of the hand, researchers can electrically stimulate these nerves, which leads to the patient perceiving sensations arising in the prosthesis.
The new invention has become a kind of harbinger of the future, in which robotic devices easily interact with our bodies. For decades, such prostheses seemed possible only in the Star Wars universe and other science fiction works, but this development shows that such a future has already come, despite the fact that the technology has not yet appeared in the public domain.