A team of Austrian scientists have come up with technology that lets amputees feel sensations in their feet. Their prosthetic leg is fitted with nerve stimulating sensors that connect to an amputee’s stump and generate real sensations. Wolfang Rangger, the first person to receive this prosthetic limb can now experience these sensations, just as if he had a normal leg. He says, ““It feels like I have a foot again. I no longer slip on ice and I can tell whether I walk on gravel, concrete, sand, or grass. I can even feel small stones.”
The installation of the prosthetic limb involves surgery on the stump to rewire nerve endings and bring them closer to the skin’s surface. On the base of the prosthetic leg, that is the artificial foot, 6 sensors are placed. The shaft of the artificial leg is equipped with stimulators and a micro-controller, via which it is stimulated and vibrated. The vibrations of the shaft activates nerve endings under the stump, relaying signals to the receiver’s brain.
Professor Hubert Egger, the person behind this genius, puts it this way: “The sensors tell the brain there is a foot and the wearer has the impression that it rolls off the ground when he walks”. This real data allows the brain to receive concrete signals and not have to search for signals from a missing limb.
Egger had previously presented a prosthetic arm that could be mind controlled through the neurons previously connected to a lost limb. With this feeling prosthtic limb, he has essentially reversed his discovery, changing the stimulus from internal to external and internalizing the response.
Rangger, who had lost his right leg due to a blood clot caused by a stroke when he was 46, has been testing his new leg for six months. The experimentation includes lab testing along with outside exercises to test the practical viability of the prosthetic.Rangger explains that he has experienced considerable reduction in phantom limb pain, and hass been able to participate in climbing and cycling activities.