by Scott Hutchins
, Project Manager | December 18, 2007
Scientists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University, led by Todd Kuiken, M.D., Ph.D., have experimentally rerouted the nerves of two armless patients. Kuiken has already received attention for his improvements to artificial limb technology, often touted by the press as "bionic."
In both patients, they took the four remaining major nerves connected to the hands and attached them into different parts of the chest muscles. The patients registered feelings on the palm or the back of the hand when touched at various places. The sensation recovered was not full, and they noted that spatial sensation and complex sensations may be limited.
The experiments took place over several months, during which the patients noted distinct differences between sensations in the chest nerves and those in the limbs and could distinguish them with accuracy.
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"Our results illustrate a method for creating a portal to the sensory pathways of a lost limb," they said in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This work offers the possibility that an amputee may one day be able to feel with an artificial limb as though it was his own."
Dr. Kuiken's web page: