via University of Pittsburgh
Imagine tying your shoes or taking a sip of coffee or cracking an egg but without any feeling in your hand. That’s life for users of even the most advanced prosthetic arms.
Although it’s possible to simulate touch by stimulating the remaining nerves in the stump after an amputation, such a surgery is highly complex and individualized. But according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh’s Rehab Neural Engineering Labs, spinal cord stimulators commonly used to relieve chronic pain could provide a straightforward and universal method for adding sensory feedback to a prosthetic arm.
For this study, published today in eLife, four amputees received spinal stimulators, which, when turned on, create the illusion of sensations in the missing arm.
“What’s unique about this work is that we’re using devices that are already implanted in 50,000 people a year for pain — physicians in every major medical center across the country know how to do these surgical procedures — and we get similar results to highly specialized devices and procedures,” said study senior author Lee Fisher, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The strings of implanted spinal electrodes, which Fisher describes as about the size and shape of “fat spaghetti noodles,” run along the spinal cord, where they sit slightly to one side, atop the same nerve roots that would normally transmit sensations from the arm. Since it’s a spinal cord implant, even a person with a shoulder-level amputation can use this device.
Fisher’s team sent electrical pulses through different spots in the implanted electrodes, one at a time, while participants used a tablet to report what they were feeling and where.
All the participants experienced sensations somewhere on their missing arm or hand, and they indicated the extent of the area affected by drawing on a blank human form. Three participants reported feelings localized to a single finger or part of the palm.
“I was pretty surprised at how small the area of these sensations were that people were reporting,” Fisher said. “That’s important because we want to generate sensations only where the prosthetic limb is making contact with objects.”
When asked to describe not just where but how the stimulation felt, all four participants reported feeling natural sensations, such as touch and pressure, though these feelings often were mixed with decidedly artificial sensations, such as tingling, buzzing or prickling.
Although some degree of electrode migration is inevitable in the first few days after the leads are implanted, Fisher’s team found that the electrodes, and the sensations they generated, mostly stayed put across the month-long duration of the experiment. That’s important for the ultimate goal of creating a prosthetic arm that provides sensory feedback to the user.
“Stability of these devices is really critical,” Fisher said. “If the electrodes are moving around, that’s going to change what a person feels when we stimulate.”
The next big challenges are to design spinal stimulators that can be fully implanted rather than connecting to a stimulator outside the body and to demonstrate that the sensory feedback can help to improve the control of a prosthetic hand during functional tasks like tying shoes or holding an egg without accidentally crushing it. Shrinking the size of the contacts — the parts of the electrode where current comes out — is another priority. That might allow users to experience even more localized sensations.
“Our goal here wasn’t to develop the final device that someone would use permanently,” Fisher said. “Mostly we wanted to demonstrate the possibility that something like this could work.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Self-Driving Cars Need Those ‘How Am I Driving’ Bumper Stickerson December 1, 2020 at 8:37 am
Those ubiquitous "How Am I Driving?" bumper stickers are needed for self-driving cars too. getty. Sometimes bumper stickers are notably helpful. While out driving, you are bound t ...
- Satisfyer Launches A Sexual Wellness Revolution With The Release Of The Groundbreaking Satisfyer Connect Appon December 1, 2020 at 6:26 am
PRNewswire/ -- Today, Satisfyer, an award-winning sexual wellness company dedicated to helping people everywhere fulfill ...
- ‘Astro’s Playroom’ review: A delightful jaunt through PlayStation historyon November 24, 2020 at 12:43 pm
“Astro’s Playroom” comes installed on every PlayStation 5, and at first glance, you may mistake it for a technical demo, or even a tutorial to introduce you to the DualSense controller. While “Astro’s ...
- A need and a willingness to adopton November 21, 2020 at 4:00 pm
And really, over the last year — and particularly with COVID — [there has emerged] a big need for virtual training and virtual learning. There’s no question people are struggling with behavioral ...
- DualSense Feedback Makes Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered Feel Legit Next-Genon November 13, 2020 at 11:35 pm
But now, thanks to the haptic feedback, I remember this sequence vividly, both how it felt and what happened on-screen. It’s associative memory, where one sensory detail reinforces the other.
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Spinal cord stimulators
- Global Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) Devices Market 2020 Comprehensive Analysis, Future Estimations, Growth Drivers and Forecast to 2025on November 29, 2020 at 6:11 pm
The report gives understanding about the global Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) Devices market forces and how those can be exploited to create future opportunities from 2020 to 2025 time-period. It ...
- Spinal Cord Stimulation Market Size 2020 Future Analysis by Growth Segments, Opportunities and Challenges, Forecast to 2026on November 27, 2020 at 6:55 pm
Final Report will add the analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on this industry." This “ Spinal Cord Stimulation Market ” research report delivers various aspects of industry including market growth ...
- Houston surgeon paralyzed in bike fall donates $1.1M to paralysis researchon November 27, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Marco donated $1.1 million to the Rex Marco, M.D., Fund of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help accelerate groundbreaking research toward cures for spinal cord injury and provide advocacy ...
- Family Sees 'Hope, Strength' Since Cedar Falls Teen's Injuryon November 27, 2020 at 6:48 am
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — While 16-year-old Jaxon Hansen was undergoing surgery for a significant spinal cord injury at Iowa City’s University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in July, his ...
- WATCH NOW: Jaxon Hansen's spinal cord injury has brought out 'best in humanity'on November 25, 2020 at 5:00 am
When Jaxon Hansen injured his spinal cord in a diving accident this summer, his mom Jess said, "People leaned in, without our asking" and gave his family hope for recovery.