Sensors within prosthetic arm makes it “feel” like a natural limb

May 5, 2020

A new neuromusculoskeletal prosthesis is said to imitate a natural limb almost exactly, because users can control it with their own minds in a realistic way; it also feeds the sensation of touch back to the user’s brain. According to the international team of scientists who developed the sensing system built into the prosthetic, the feeling is so lifelike that patients don’t need to be trained to use it – three Swedish patients have now lived with surgically-attached prostheses safely for several years.

The groundbreaking development was made by scientists from Chalmers University of Technology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, University of Gothenburg, and medical equipment manufacturer Integrum, in Sweden; the Medical University of Vienna, Austria; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.

Unlike traditional socket prostheses that just slots over the stump of a remaining limb, the new sensing system interfaces directly with the nerves and muscles of the stump and is anchored to the bone for stability.Most importantly, its user can feel sensory feedback thanks to force sensors built into the prosthesis’ thumb, which measure contact and pressure. The crucial information is sent to the brain, and so lets the user feel when they’re touching something, tell its characteristics, and determine how hard they’re pressing on it.

The new system can be connected to a variety of different prosthetic devices – the scientists thus expect this system to become available outside Sweden within a couple of years. The scientists are also working on a similar technology for leg prostheses, which they plan to implant in a first patient later in the year.

“The prosthesis has changed my life a lot,” says one of the Swedish patients.

“The traditional socket prosthesis I had before was a tool I wore. The new prosthesis does not feel like something I wear but as part of me.”


Category: Technology & Devices

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