Scientists create neurofeedback for leg prostheses

Based on a new study, researchers at ETH Zurich and Lausanne-based start-up company Sen-sArs have designed an interface in order to connect a leg prosthesis to the residual nerves from the user’s thigh. This will further help in providing a sensory feedback.

Based on a study conducted in collaboration with the University of Belgrade, team of scientists examined the neurofeedback system with the help of two volunteers who have suffered an above-knee leg amputation and used a leg prosthesis.

According to reports published in the Journal of Nature Medicine, the solution worked to the advantage of the amputees in several different ways. “This proof-of-concept study shows how beneficial it is to the health of leg amputees to have a prosthesis that works with neural implants to restore sensory feed-back,” confirmed Stanisa Raspopovic, a Professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich.

High-tech prosthesis were used by scientists in order to provide the nervous system with sensory information. Furthermore, tactile sensors were used to the sole of the prosthetic foot which further helped in collecting data on the knee movement, provided by the prosthesis’s electronic knee joint.

Reports suggest, the experiment lasted for three months, with surgeons placing tiny electrodes in every volunteer’s thigh and connected them further to residual leg nerves. Moreover, the team of scientists also created algorithms in order to translate information from tactile and motion sensors to impulses or current, or the language of the nervous system, delivered to the residual nerve.

With the course of the biological nature, the signals from the residual nerves are transported to the person’s brain, which is able to sense prosthesis and also helps the user to adjust gait to that preference. In this way, the machine and the body are finally connected.