The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has demonstrated that advanced prostheses that relate sensory feedback can be controlled through nerve and muscle interfaces, according to a news release.
The peripheral interfaces, developed by DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program, use signals from nerves or muscles to both control the prostheses and provide direct sensory feedback.
One type of peripheral interface developed under the RE-NET program, targeted muscle re-innervation (TMR), was developed by researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. TMR involves rewiring nerves from amputated limbs to create new interfaces that allow for prosthetic control from existing muscles.
A second peripheral interface created under the RE-NET program was developed by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. They used a flat interface nerve electrode (FINE) to demonstrate direct sensory feedback. The electrode restores some sense of touch in the fingers by interfacing with residual nerves in the patient’s partial limb, allowing the user to rely on sensory feedback rather than only visual feedback.
“With the RE-NET program, DARPA took on the mission of giving our wounded vets increased control of advanced prosthetics,” Jack Judy, the program manager for DARPA, stated in the release. “TMR is already being used by numerous amputees at military hospitals. As the RE-NET program continues, we expect that the limb-control and sensory-feedback capabilities of peripheral-interface technologies will increase and that they will become even more widely available in the future.”