AI News, Brain Implant Allows Man to Feel Touch on Robotic Hand

Brain Implant Allows Man to Feel Touch on Robotic Hand

Researchers report today in the journalScience Translational Medicinethat they can do something similar: stimulating regions of a human test subject’s brain with electrodes can recreate the perception of touch in a robotic hand.

“If you lose that sense of touch, you have a really difficult time” grabbing, holding, and manipulating different objects, says Richard Gaunt, a neuroengineer at the University of Pittsburgh who works on touch feedback for prosthetics.

To safely interact with other human beings and handle delicate objects such as eggs, humans need more than just control–they need to be able to modify control based on touch feedback.

Research published inNaturein 1997 suggested that animals exposed to electrical stimulation in specific regions of the brain react as though their hands were stimulated, but even withfollow-up studies, exactly what animals feel remained a mystery.

In several experiments where scientists electrically stimulated human brains, such as2013 research in theJournal of Neural Engineering, participants reported sensations that felt like they were coming from the hands, but described the feelings a more of a buzzing or the tingling sensation, like when your foot falls asleep.

The researchers began the experiment by tracking the magnetic fields coming from the brain’s neurons when the test subject, Nathan Copeland, imagined something touching different parts of his hand.

By combining the readings with magnetic resonance imaging, they created a map of groups of neurons in the S1 cortex associated with feeling in the thumb, index finger, little finger, and palm.

Over the next few weeks, during stimulation the patient reported variations of pressure, touches, vibrations, and tingles that felt as if they occurred at joints and below the skin of a hand.

The research is a “proof of principle,” that “possibly natural perceptions” can appear after stimulation, says Zelma Kiss, a neurosurgeon and expert in deep-brain microstimulation at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, who was also not involved.

Brain-Implanted Device Restores Sense of Touch in Man with Spinal Cord Injury

A device that was implanted in a man's brain has restored his feelings of touch, according to a new study.

The patient, although paralyzed by his injury, could experience the sensations through a mind-controlled robotic arm connected directly to his brain, the researchers said.

In the winter of 2004, he was driving at night in rainy weather and was in a car crash that snapped his neck and injured his spinal cord.

In the spring of 2015, Copeland had two electronic chips, each about half the size of a shirt button, implanted into a part of his brain called the somatosensory cortex, which controls touch, including in the hands.

Each chip had an array of 32 needle-like electrodes about 2 microns wide, or about one-fiftieth the diameter of the average human hair, developed by Blackrock Microsystems in Salt Lake City.

These electrodes could electrically stimulate neurons in his brain to recreate his perception of touch while bypassing his spinal cord injury.

"To date, all attempts to restore sensations of touch through brain implants have either been done in animal experiments or have used very large electrodes during existing operations,"

Previous research using this new technique with much smaller electrodes, known as intracortical microstimulation, had looked promising in studies on animals.

Researchers have learned about human sensations from brain surgeries done with the patient awake, in which "they stimulate the brain and ask people what they feel,"

In other work, researchers have restored sensations of touch in the arms of people with amputations by stimulating nerves in the remaining parts of their arms.

However, such work could not help restore touch in people with spinal cord injuries, who have damage in the central nervous system, Gaunt said.

In the new study, in experiments done over the course of six months, the researchers found that the brain implants could indeed evoke natural-feeling sensations, such as warmth and pressure, in Copeland's hands.

​In a First, Pitt-UPMC Team Help Paralyzed Man Feel Again Through a Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm

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Quadriplegic man feels touch on robotic hand with brain implant

For the first time, brain stimulation has made it possible for a paralysed person to experience the sensation of touch via a bionic hand.

These were inserted into the region of the brain that registers touch from the hand, and linked to a robotic hand in the same room via a computer.

Previous work has focused on the motor cortex instead, enabling paralysed people to make bionic arms move using their thoughts – for example, to drink a cup of coffee.

Towards a better grip “The procedure evoked almost natural sensations at some very precise locations in the hand,” says Takafumi Yanagisawa, at Osaka University in Japan, who has used brain-computer interfaces to enable paralysed people to move objects using a prosthetic hand.

Copeland already has a set of electrodes in his motor cortex that enable him to move objects, so the stage is now set for Gaunt’s team to try linking this to the feeling of touch.