Human Brain Treats Prosthetic Devices as Part of the Body

Our brains integrate functional prostheses into our body perception. Marshall McLuhan was right, technology is an extension of ourselves. Once we perfect intuitive brain based control and tactile sensory feedback, "upgrades" will be possible.

The human brain can learn to treat relevant prosthetics as a substitute for a non-working body part,...

The researchers found that wheelchair-bound study participants with spinal cord injuries perceived their body's edges as being plastic and flexible to include the wheelchair, independent of time since their injury or experience with using a wheelchair.

According to the authors, this suggests that rather than being thought of only as an extension of the immobile limbs, the wheelchairs had become tangible, functional substitutes for the affected body part. As Pazzaglia explains, "The corporeal awareness of the tool emerges not merely as an extension of the body but as a substitute for, and part of, the functional self."

Previous studies have shown that people with prosthetic devices that extend or restore movement may make such tools part of their physical identity, but whether this integration was due to prolonged use or a result of altered sensory input was unclear. Based on the results of this study, the authors suggest that it may be the latter, as the brain appears to continuously update bodily signals to incorporate these tools into a sense of the body. [ emphasis mine]


Tags: prosthetics

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Sense of touch achieved with prosthetic!

Sense of Touch Reproduced Through Prosthetic Hand

... neurobiologists at the University of Chicago show how an organism can sense a tactile stimulus, in real time, through an artificial sensor in a prosthetic hand.

Sliman Bensmaia, assistant professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, studies the neural basis of the sense of touch. Now, he and his colleagues are working with a robotic hand equipped with sensors that send electrical signals to electrodes implanted in the brain to recreate the same response to touch as a real hand.

... the researchers were able to create a function, or equation, that described the requisite electrical pulse to go with each physical poke of the hand. Then, they repeated the experiments with a prosthetic hand that was wired to the brain implants. They touched the prosthetic hand with the physical probe, which in turn sent electrical signals to the brain.

Bensmaia said that the animals performed identically whether poked on their own hand or on the prosthetic one.

"This is the first time as far as I know where an animal or organism actually perceives a tactile stimulus through an artificial transducer," Bensmaia said. "It's an engineering milestone. [emphasis mine]

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