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Farjand
Farjand • Jun 7, 2011

Chicago University Brings Artificial Limbs With Sense Of Touch!

What can be an “imaginary thing”, more properly called a “Sci-fi” object, University of Chicago scientists are developing prostheses having a sense of touch. The project funded by Defense advanced research projects agency aims to help the American soldiers with amputated limbs or those who are critically injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan war.

University of Chicago neurologists have been working continuously past some time on the project researching and testing their technology on monkeys for perfecting their technique and it looks like they are succeeding in their efforts. One of the key researchers in this project is Mr.Sliman Bensmaia, a neurologist in University of Chicago. The prosthesis which are developed till now by his team would only be able to feel that they are touching something. They would however not be aware if the thing which they are touching is hot or cold, heavy or light, soft or hard.

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The aim of the research is to simulate this quantitative touch. For that the researchers are planning to integrate platinum electrodes, just the same size as that of a small eraser. This is done to record and study the “electric response” of these platinum electrodes implanted in the primates to various touches. The data obtained from this electrode is being used to write an algorithm which will be helpful in developing software used in the limb. The University of Chicago team is working on a concept which is long established. It says that whenever an electric current is applied to neurons, they show response in some way or the other. It may be a simple muscle twitch or any other reaction.

Last year, John Hopkins University also gave a grant of $1.5 million to Bensmaia’s team to develop a more advanced mechanism to detect touch and improve sensing power of the artificial limb. John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory has last worked on a similar project by DARPA developing a prosthetic arm which could rotate and turn in 26 different ways.

So it means we will soon be able to a new type of artificial limb which will not only be able to help the injured person but also will help him in distinguishing if he is lifting 2 Kg or 20Kg just as the normal humans can guess to a fair degree of accuracy. DARPA has been very optimistic about this advanced prosthetic arm project having allocated funds of $129 million for it since 2006. The program would not only be beneficial for the soldiers, rather it would benefit all mankind. Those who have lost their sense of touch or have amputated limbs would largely help then regain their sense of touch.

Source: Chicago Tribune Image Credit: CNET

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