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First artificial hand with a sense of feel

First artificial hand with a sense of feel
Photo: First artificial hand with a sense of feel
Two men have told US researchers that implanted electrodes in their artificial hands have allowed them to feel certain objects.

Scientists are moving closer to an artificial hand that can feel.

Implanted electrodes have allowed some amputees to tell by touch how gently to grasp, letting them pluck fruit without crushing it.

Two men have told researchers at Case Western Reserve University that wiring some of their remaining nerves to a robotic arm - albeit only during visits to a lab - felt more like grasping objects with their own hand than with a tool.

"This feels like normal sensation," one of the men, Igor Spetic, Ohio, said in an interview.

When researchers touched different spots on his artificial hand, "sometimes it felt like a cotton ball," he said. "Sometimes like sandpaper."

An unexpected benefit: The phantom pain both men have felt since losing their limbs in industrial accidents has nearly disappeared since they began the experiment, the researchers reported on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

It will take years of additional research before robotic hands really let people feel what they touch.

But the new research is an important step, said Dr Michael Boninger, who directs the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's rehabilitation institute and who wasn't involved with the experiments.

Beyond better function, getting feedback from the limb "would be a spectacular thing to be able to have, that you feel like the arm is your own", he said.

Copyright AAP 2014.


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