Quadriplegic reports a two-handed sense of touch after first bilateral brain implant

October 24, 2019

Paralysis patients could soon receive sensory feedback as they control a prosthetic limb, as a US team from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, have developed a system that enables a quadriplegic to control two prosthetics arms simultaneously and also feel a sense of touch in response.

The system works through custom sockets that support the team’s Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPLs), which have integrated capabilities such as such as fingertip sensors for force, slip and pressure, and connects them to nerves in the patient’s torso.

To employ a neural interface to control the artificial limbs, the team implanted a pair of electrode arrays on both sides of the brain of spinal cord injury patient Buz Chmielewski, who is paralysed from the shoulders down, in a first-of-its-kind surgery early this year. The multiple electrodes were fixed to brain regions responsible for movement and touch sensation – the stimulation of these finger regions of the brain were described as “very focused” and could be stimulated by physical touch to the MPL fingers.

Project lead Dr. Francesco Tenore said the bilateral implant was primarily aimed at allowing a paralysed user to execute motions that require both arms and perceive interactions with the environment as though they were coming from his/her own hands.

“Our team will continue to explore the potential for control of other devices that could be used to expand a user’s personal or professional capabilities,” he added.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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