People with amputated arms can feel warmth in their missing hands

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Sensors could beryllium added to nan fingertips of prosthetic hands that past alteration group pinch amputated arms to gauge nan somesthesia of an object

By Jason Arunn Murugesu

Someone pinch an amputated correct limb showing wherever they are experiencing nan emotion of somesthesia successful their phantom hand

Someone pinch an amputated correct limb showing wherever they are sensing a definite somesthesia successful their phantom hand


People pinch amputated arms tin beryllium made to consciousness somesthesia aliases worldly changes successful their phantom hand, a find that could thief equip prosthetics pinch a much heightened consciousness of touch.

After an amputation, immoderate group acquisition nan sensation that their missing limb aliases limb is still attached, known arsenic phantom limbs. To study much astir these limbs, Solaiman Shokur astatine nan Swiss Federal Institute of Technology successful Lausanne and his colleagues looked astatine 26 group who mislaid astatine slightest portion of 1 of their arms successful an mishap and reported experiencing phantom hands.

The researchers placed a instrumentality pinch a changeable somesthesia connected these participants’ residual limbs. They past applied 3 temperatures: 25°C (77°F), 32°C (89.6°F) and 37°C (98.6°F), and nan participants reported whether they could consciousness warmth successful their phantom hands and, if so, if they could show nan temperatures apart.

Seventeen said they felt a alteration successful somesthesia to their phantom manus erstwhile nan instrumentality was used, which nan researchers called phantom thermal sensation. Of these, 15 could differentiate betwixt nan 3 temperatures. “Our presumption is that, aft nan amputation, nerves proceed to turn successful nan skin,” says Shokur. “By targeting those nerves precisely, we are producing this phantom sensation.”

It is unclear why only 17 of nan participants reported emotion nan temperatures. “What we person noticed is that galore of nan group who didn’t show a consequence had accidents related to occurrence and truthful they had their tegument burned, and truthful possibly they mislaid a batch of sensitivity successful their skin,” he says.

In different portion of nan experiment, nan researchers applied a sensor to 3 materials: glass, copper and plastic. This sensor was connected to nan residual arms of 9 of nan participants pinch phantom thermal sensation, who were blindfolded. It was initially group astatine 32°C, nan approximate somesthesia of skin, and past cooled astatine astir nan aforesaid complaint arsenic nan somesthesia of nan tegument connected our hands does erstwhile it touches copper, solid aliases plastic.

The participants identified which of nan materials nan sensor was rubbing pinch a 66 per cent occurrence rate, compared pinch a 67 per cent occurrence complaint erstwhile their intact manus touched nan materials.

The researchers dream to create their sensor truthful it tin beryllium applied to nan fingertips of prosthetics, enabling group pinch amputated arms aliases hands to observe temperatures. This will thief group pinch amputations to debar burns, arsenic good arsenic making touch consciousness much natural, says Shokur. “One personification told maine that they’d emotion to deterioration this instrumentality while holding their kid’s manus truthful that they could consciousness their warmth,” he says.