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Sensory feedback — achieved by direct interfaces attached to the nerves — fundamentally changed how study participants used their mechanical attachment, “transforming it from a sporadically used tool into a readily and frequently used ‘hand.’”

A prosthetic hand restores sense of touch. (Credit: Case Western Reserve University)

Two aspects of the research make it significant: That is was conducted at home without restrictions on how the prosthesis was used; and the significant positive impact of sensory feedback — both functional and psychological — that resulted from extended use of the prosthesis.

The subjects in this study used the sensory-enabled prosthesis far longer than the same prosthesis without sensation. In addition to wearing the artificial hand for more time and for more daily tasks when it was sensory enabled, the participants had greater confidence in using the hand to do tasks and to socially interact with loved ones.

The research team is next looking at implanting devices to route the neural connections through Bluetooth technology to allow the amputee to “feel” the new hand through wireless connections between themselves and the device.

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