LONDON (TIP): The world’s first mind-controlled prosthetic arms that work in daily life and experiences the sense of touch has finally become a reality.
Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have made a breakthrough by anchoring bionic arms directly on to the bone to improve control and feel touch. The team mapped sensations to 19 different locations on the hand from the palm to the tip of the thumb and matched the sensors to the different electronic patterns of stimulation.
They then moved on to pressure and textures. The patient could tell while blindfolded whether he is holding something. The direct skeletal attachment is created by what is known as osseointegration, a technology in limb prostheses pioneered by associate professor Rickard Branemark and his colleagues at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
The researchers said, “For the first time, robotic prostheses controlled via implanted neuromuscular interfaces have become a clinical reality. A novel osseointegrated (bone-anchored) implant system gives patients new opportunities in their daily life and professional activities”.
In January 2013, a Swedish arm amputee was the first person in the world to receive prosthesis with a direct connection to bone, nerves and muscles.
“Going beyond the lab to allow the patient to face real-world challenges is the main contribution of this work,” said Max Ortiz Catalan, research scientist at Chalmers University of Technology and leading author of the study.
“We have used osseointegration to create a long-term stable fusion between man and machine, where we have integrated them at different levels. The artificial arm is directly attached to the skeleton, thus providing mechanical stability. Then the human’s biological control system, that is nerves and muscles, is also interfaced to the machine’s control system via neuromuscular electrodes. This creates an intimate union between the body and the machine; between biology and mechatronics,” he said.
The patient’s arm was amputated over 10 years ago. The patient is also one of the first in the world to take part in an effort to achieve long-term sensation via the prosthesis.
“Reliable communication between the prosthesis and the body has been the missing link for the clinical implementation of neural control and sensory feedback, and this is now in place,” Catalan said. “So far we have shown that the patient has a long-term stable ability to perceive touch in different locations in the missing hand. Intuitive sensory feedback and control are crucial for interacting with the environment, for example to reliably hold an object despite disturbances or uncertainty,” he added.