A series of brain microchips can now allow a paralyzed person to feel the sense of touch via a robotic extension. This is a modern day miracle in the making.
A patient who is unable to move his hand or legs since breaking his neck in a car accident ten years ago has felt something for the first time. Scientists implanted four chips in his brain.
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With these he can now manipulate a robotic arm using just the powers of his mind. He can actually feel the sense of touch when someone strokes his fingers. This is the first time a prosthetic has allowed a person to feel tactile sensation via direct stimulation of the brain.
The man said that it felt absolutely wonderful. He actually felt the fingers of his hand being touched and pushed. It was a miracle. The findings of this research were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
This could help the experts design prosthetics that mimic the way our bodies synthesize touch and locomotion. When we hold on to, reach for and manipulate objects, our body parts work in unison with our brain. The prosthetic devices of the future will work in a similar manner.
The patient discussed a paragraph back had his life undergo major changes a decade ago. His car crashed when he was coming home one night and it left him with a spinal injury, according to The Verge.
He was paralyzed from the chest down. Although he was able to lift his wrists, his fingers lost their sense of touch and he was left unable to move them either.
After the scientists had operated on his brain and implanted the four microchips in it, he was able to control the prosthetic robotic arm and feel sensation through it as well.
The researchers used brain imaging to decide which part of the sensory cortex the chips were to be implanted in. The brain activity of this man was observed very closely to get the ABCs of sensate prosthetics right.
The images helped form a map through which the researchers were able to implant electrodes in the brain in their rightful designated regions. The electrodes were in turn connected to an external computer.
This was linked to the robotic arm. Thus the biofeedback circuit was complete. It took a month of rehabilitative efforts to get the man to once again feel some sensations. The results on the whole were impressive to say the least. This research has huge implications for the future of bionics.