A 28 year old man who has been paralysed has been given a new sense of touch following a new breakthrough that saw electrodes places directly into the man's brain.
The research and clinical trial has been carried out by DARPA, the US Military's research agency. Essentially, the man (who has not been named) is now able to control his new hand and feel people touching it because of two sets of electrodes: one array on the motor cortex, the part of the brain which directs body movement, and one on the sensory cortex, which is the part of the brain which feels touch.
The prosthetic hand itself was developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, and contains torque sensors that can detect when pressure is being applied to the fingers, and will generate an electrical signal containing this information to send to the brain.
Apparently a test was carried out where the man was blindfolded, and it he was able to figure out which finger was being touched with "nearly 100 per cent accuracy" - and perhaps more impressively when the researchers touched two fingers at once without warning him, his brain could sense something was up, and he asked whether they were playing a trick on him.
It's certainly impressive sounding technology - here's hoping it can become standardised treatment for those who need it soon.
Image by DARPA