Touch-Sensitive Materials

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March 10, 2020
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Touch-Sensitive Materials

Researchers are developing new prosthetic skins and limbs that restore not just movement, but touch as well.

Researchers are developing new prosthetic skins and limbs that restore not just movement, but touch as well.

In 2018, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore created an electronic skin to help restore a sense of touch to amputees. Dubbed “e-dermis,” it recreates the sense of touch (including pain) by sensing physical stimuli and sending those signals back to the peripheral nerves.

Interdisciplinary researchers at the Center for Wearable Sensors and the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California-San Diego are combining materials science and psychophysics to map exactly how humans perceive touch. This research lays the groundwork for the advanced prosthetics of the future.

We’ve already seen some exciting developments. Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago are experimenting with touch-sensitive robotics and rhesus monkeys, whose neural-sensory biology is most similar to humans. They successfully simulated the sensation of touch by stimulating certain areas of the brain.

A team of scientists from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies and the Gemelli University Hospital in Rome developed a bionic hand that transmits a realistic sense of touch; it’s already in use, restoring sensation to a woman who lost her hand in an accident 25 years ago.