The quest for a bionic hand: recent achievements and future perspectives
Replacing a missing upper limb with a functional one is an ancient need and desire. Historically, humans have replaced a missing limb with a prosthesis for many reasons, be it cosmetic, vocational, or for personal autonomy. The hand is a powerful tool and its loss causes severe physical and often mental debilitation. The need for a versatile prosthetic limb with intuitive motor control and realistic sensory feedback is huge and its development is absolutely necessary for the near future. Among the possible solutions to achieve this goal, interfaces with the peripheral nervous system, and in particular intraneural electrodes, are a very promising choice. In this presentation, the results achieved so far by using thin-film transversal intraneural electrodes (TIMEs) for sensory feedback are summarized.
First, we are going to describe the results achieved during experiments with trans- radial amputees who received TIME implants to restore sensory feedback. In particular, we are going to show how tactile and proprioceptive information can be restored providing also embodiment and pain reduction. The possibility of obtaining more natural and effective sensory feedback using biomimetic encoding algorithms will be also shown. Finally, the next steps to achieve a fully implantable device will be briefly summarized.
Our findings demonstrate that these interfaces are a valuable solution for delivering sensory feedback to subjects with transradial amputation. Further experiments are necessary to better understand the potentials of this approach during chronic experiments.