Scientists Create a Prosthetic Limb That Can Sense Temperature

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

In recent years, the field of prosthetics has witnessed remarkable progress, particularly in the realm of sensory restoration for individuals with limb loss. A notable breakthrough in this domain comes in the form of the MiniTouch device—a technological innovation designed to give amputees the ability to perceive temperature changes through their prosthetic limbs. This development represents a significant leap forward in enhancing both the functionality and quality of artificial limbs.

The Invention

The MiniTouch device, equipped with fingertip sensors, operates by detecting temperature fluctuations similar to the natural responses of nerve endings in intact limbs. By interfacing with nerve areas on the residual limb, the device effectively communicates thermal information to the brain, creating the illusion of sensation in the absent hand. People who underwent testing reported improvements in their ability to discern temperature variations with their prosthetic hands. Moreover, subjects expressed a sense of reconnection with their prosthetic limbs, and newfound agency facilitated by the device.

Looking to the Future

Looking ahead, researchers are poised to explore additional avenues for enhancing sensory feedback in prosthetic technology. The new goal is to advance the naturalistic feel and functionality of artificial limbs. Through continued innovation and collaboration, prosthetic limbs will improve, offering opportunities for amputees to reclaim a sense of wholeness.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering

Francesca Rossi participated in the study and expressed satisfaction with the results. She said, “Feeling the temperature variation is a different thing, something important … something beautiful. It does not feel phantom anymore, because your limb is back.”