Through touch, we experience the world. But when any sensation is lost, pain and/or grief can fill its place. Not only can phantom limb syndrome cause aggravating pain and frustration, but the inability to connect through a previously gifted sensation can be confusing to the mind.
Thanks to a breakthrough in Austria, however, such woes may be of the past for amputees. This is because scientists have recently shared with the world the first sensory-enhanced prosthesis that allows its wearer to FEEL through their artificial feet.
Professor Hubert Egger from the University of Linz recently shared with the world research which enables patients to feel the bottom of their artificial feet.
The process starts with surgically re-wiring the nerves at the end of the residual limb so they are better able to receive signals. Then, sensors that measure pressure are placed the bottom of the prosthetic.
As BBC reports, the sensors essentially relay pressure points through a stimulator in the shaft of the prosthetic, which connects to the end of the stump. The nerves send signals to the brain, and, amazingly, the prosthetic toes have touch and feeling that comes with it.
One man, a former teacher named Wolfang Rangger who lost his right leg in 2007 due to a blood clot, is amazed at the new technology and his regained ability to feel through a prosthetic. He has been testing out the technology at the University of Linz laboratory and at home.
He told BBC: “It feels like I have a foot again. It’s like a second lease of life.”
Below you can see him testing out his newly sensitive limb in a range of activities.
He said: “I no longer slip on ice and I can tell whether I walk on gravel, concrete, grass or sand. I can even feel small stones.”
When the team of scientists unveiled their finding at a press conference in Vienna, they also noted that another major benefit of the breakthrough was a reduction in excruciating “Phantom limb” pain felt by subjects such as Mr. Rangger for years.
Professor Egger says the brain now receives real data rather than searching for information from the missing limb, which is why the pain has subsided.
So not only does this breakthrough re-gift the ability of touch to its wearers, but it can help alleviate the excruciating pain caused by phantom limb syndrome.
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