New Prosthetics Connect Brain to Limbs, Simulate Feeling

Dennis Faas's picture

One of the most exciting, applicable but often ignored areas of technology research is that involving the development of prosthetics. A new project aims to give amputees the ability to reacquire limb functionality by effectively connecting the brain to a prosthetic limb through a computer interface.

A first look at the new technology may cause some film fans to shudder. That's because the new prosthetics, free of their synthetic skin and flesh, look eerily similar to the exoskeleton used in the movie 'The Terminator'.

New Technology Transfers 'Feeling' to the Brain

The technology allows amputees twenty-seven degrees of mobility, including elbow, wrist, and finger movements. Beyond that, it will also give users the ability to sense touch, temperature, pressure and vibration almost as if they had never lost a limb at all. (Source:

Right now the technology is being called the John Hopkins Prosthetic Limb and is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency within the United States Department of Defense.

The first concept limb is an advanced prosthetic arm which is currently being tested at the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers say that early demonstrations with subjects using their minds to control arm movements have proven successful so far.

Chips Implanted in Brain

Researchers asay that once the technology is ready, it will essentially replace a real limb. The technology requires tiny chips to be implanted in the brain so that users can effectively integrate the limb with the mind using only a thought.

To demonstrate that it works, one amputee gave his girlfriend a high-five. "I got to reach out and touch somebody for the first time in seven years," said one excited study participant. (Source:

University of Pittsburgh researchers say they hope the technology will become the basis for a long-term project in the next two years.

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