First Artificial Leg with Feeling

Written for the University of Michigan’s One Cool Thing mobile app (07/13/15)

May spell the end for phantom pains

Prosthetics have been the answer to replacing the lost function an amputee experiences for many years; however, feeling in a lost limb is something that couldn’t be recovered until recently.

Gizmodo reports that researchers have for the first time equipped a patient with a “sensory enhanced” prosthetic leg that reproduces the sense of touch. A group of researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria accomplished this feat by moving nerve endings to the area where the prosthesis connects to the body, connecting those nerve endings to stimulation sources in the prosthetic leg, and connecting six sensors on the sole of the prosthetic foot to those sources. Now, when used, the prosthetic foot sends stimulation via the sensors to the nerve endings and in turn the patient’s brain, giving feeling to the artificial leg. Aiming to return the patient to a sense of normalcy in everyday life, this new technology also can ensure amputees avoid falling more easily as well as help to end phantom pains in a lost limb.