If a prosthetic that moves by one’s own thoughts isn’t incredible enough, how about one that can feel, too?

US Department of Defense researchers announced on Friday that they have successfully created a bionic hand that can also sense touch. A team from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) restored motion and feeling to the hand of a paralyzed man.

The 28-year-old volunteer had been without feeling in his hand for more than ten years. With the bionic prosthetic attached, he was able to feel finger taps with nearly 100 percent accuracy, “as if his own hand was being touched”.

The thought-triggered motion capability of bionic prosthetics, amazing as it is, has only ever been able to translate neural signals one way, from brain to prosthetic. This is the first time that the signal has actually been translated back to the brain, thus resulting in a sense of touch.

“We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Dr. Justin Sanchez. “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements.”

Movement and sense of touch were achieved by wiring the prosthetic hand directly into the part of the brain that controls motion. “This work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function,” Sanchez concluded.

Copyright © 2015 Sarah E. Dautel