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Electrodes dupe brain into feeling touch

Experiments in monkeys could lead to sensitive replacement limbs for humans

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3:09pm, October 14, 2013

A TOUCHING PROSTHETIC Touch-sensitive prosthetic limbs like the one shown may one day restore the sense of touch in people who have lost limbs or are paralyzed.

Tickling the brain in just the right spot can create the sensation of touch. By zapping monkeys’ brains with electrodes, scientists tricked the animals into feeling a poke.

The feat, described October 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a blueprint for creating advanced prosthetics that meld with the brain. Restoring touch to people who have lost limbs or are paralyzed is one of the biggest goals in prosthetic design, says study coauthor Sliman Bensmaia of the University of Chicago.

Without the sense of touch, everyday tasks like cracking an egg, holding a coffee cup or folding a newspaper would be nearly impossible. Touch is also important for forging emotional connections and for the sensation of body ownership.

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