Prosthetic legs giving back sensation to amputees
What if people who lost a limb could gain back sensation through prosthetics?
For the moment this is still a utopian idea, but science certainly made a step into the right direction and could be improving the lives of leg amputees significantly.
People using their legs rely on their brain being supplied with information through their nervous system. The brain will process the information and give its input concerning posture, balance, strength,… . This will allow a person to walk with ease.
This is not the case for amputees, whose nervous system has been cut off. Especially above-knee amputees have trouble to readjust to walking with a prothesis due to the lack of neural sensory feedback.
The TH Zurich and the Universities of Belgrade and Freiburg have developed a neuroprosthetic device consisting of a prosthetic leg equipped with foot and knee sensors. The sensors are a substitute for the nerves which should be relaying the information they gather. The afore mentioned sensors “drive neural stimulation, which elicits sensations of knee motion and the sole of the foot touching the ground” the sensations were introduced to the subject’s nervous system at thigh level and allowed the brain to analyse these signals, which sub consequently led to the subject adjusting his body to the situation.
Although this study was only a proof of concept trail, with data gathered mainly from two subjects, it has shown great promise. The outcome of the study as listed in the publication is “Primary outcomes were the change in mobility and metabolic consumption. Secondary outcomes were the change in confidence, cognitive burden and phantom pain level”.