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Prosthetics that can feel: what this could mean for you

Thanks to advancements in technology, prosthetics are a lot better than they once were. Today, people living with amputations have the ability to live relatively normal lives, using prosthetic devices that replace missing limbs and other body parts. Depending on a patient's budget, amputees can even purchase attachments that allow them to partake in activities such as running, skiing and even swimming.

But one thing that many prosthetics have been unable to do is return a person's senses to them if they have been lost because of injury or illness. Advancements in technology have started coming close, in some cases returning hearing to some individuals and even partial sight to others. One sense that had eluded scientists was the sense of touch, which is perhaps the least understood of the senses. That was until recently.

As some of our West Caldwell readers may have heard, researchers with the DARPA program recently announced a successful test that enabled a paralyzed man to feel his surroundings using prosthetic fingers. Researchers were able to do this by connecting a prosthetic arm to a chip inside the man's brain. Using special sensors and a processing program, the device was able to interpret sensations detected by the device, sending those signals to the man's brain, which were then interpreted as touch.

Though the experiment is still subject to peer review before it can then be accepted to a scientific journal, some are hopeful that this is the first step toward a better future for prosthetic users everywhere. And even though these new devices may be more expensive than their older, simpler counterparts, those receiving disability benefits through the Social Security Administration can look forward to the fact that some of this cost may be offset by their benefits down the road.

Source: Popular Science, "Paralyzed Man Becomes First to 'Feel' with Sophisticated Hand Prosthetic," Alexandra Ossola, Sept. 14, 2015

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