A research team funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed a method that uses electrical stimulation to encode intensity levels of touch pressure in the nervous system.
Researchers from the University of Chicago, Case Western Reserve University and Louis R. Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center have implanted nerve interfaces in two amputees’ upper-arm stumps and used pressure sensors on the volunteers’ prosthetic hands to test how the brain interprets the frequency and amplitude of electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves as touch pressure, DARPA said Wednesday.
Study results showed that volunteers could determine various levels of pressure through modulation of nerve fiber stimulation as well as the frequency of electrical stimulation.
DARPA funded the study through the Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces program that seeks to develop a prosthetic hand designed to restore natural functionality to wounded veterans.
“Determining how the nervous system encodes the different aspects of touch is an enormous challenge, but with that knowledge we can engineer more capable neural interfaces that could redefine how people interact with tools and machines,” said Doug Weber, HAPTIX program manager.