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Prosthetics that feel

Amputees with rerouted 'sense of touch' view new limbs as part of body

4:23pm, January 28, 2011

Amputees whose “sense of touch” was rerouted from their missing limbs view their prosthetic not as a tool, but as part of the body, a study to appear in Brain suggests. Such enhanced sense of ownership, scientists say, might lead to prosthetics that operate seamlessly in place of a missing limb.

The new study was conducted with two arm amputees who had undergone a surgery called targeted reinnervation, in which the remaining nerve ends from the severed arm were rerouted to an area on the arm above the site of amputation. This patch of skin serves as a proxy — touching different parts of the area makes the amputee feel as though distinct parts of his or her missing arm were being touched.

The research “tells us about the brain — that the brain can take this abnormal sensation and attribute it to the hand, to the arm,” says neuroscientist Steven Hsiao of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who wasn’t involved in th

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