The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the US Department of Defense has made a breakthrough in prosthetic limb design and succefully created a prosthetic arm that can detect feeling. While great advancements have been made in prosthetic limbs that are controlled by thought but less has been done to develop prosthetic limbs that feed back to the brain. DARPA’s creation is achieved by inserting a 1mm silicon chip into a person’s motor cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls arm and hand movements. Another chip is also placed into the person’s sensory cortex — the area that identifies tactile sensations such as pressure and movements.
The prosthetic limb was tested on an unnamed 28-year-old patient who had been paralysed by a spinal cord injury over a decade ago. Darpa found that he was the first ever human who could feel the prosthetic fingers being pressed. Justin Sanchez, the manager of the project claims that this breakthrough signified the potential of restoring movement to near natural sensation through prosthesis.