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DARPA Advances Prosthetic Research

The agency, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, has created a robotic arm that can convert pressure into electric neurotransmissions.

Government research agency DARPA, through its Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, has advanced research on creating a prosthetic that can send signals to the brain and back to the robotic device.

The clinical work involves the placement of electrode arrays on a volunteer’s sensory and motor cortexes to identify tactile sensations.

The hand, developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, is made up of torque sensors that can detect when pressure is being applied and convert these sensations into electrical signals.

“We’ve completed the circuit. Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly to the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technical restoration of near-natural function,” says Justin Sanchez, DARPA program manager. “DARPA’s investments in neurotechnologies are helping to open entirely new worlds of function and experience for individuals living with paralysis and have the potential to benefit people with similar injuries or diseases.”

For more information, visit DARPA.

Sources: Press materials received from the agency and additional information gleaned from the agency’s website.

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