In the study, scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland used an astute combination of two senses — sight and touch, to convince amputees that the prosthetic hand belonged to their own body.
It is a combined approach of virtual reality and artificial tactile sensations, amputees felt as though their prosthetic hand was part of their own body.
“The brain regularly uses its senses to evaluate what belongs to the body and what is external to the body. We showed exactly how vision and touch can be combined to trick the amputee’s brain into feeling what it sees, inducing embodiment of the prosthetic hand with an additional effect that the phantom limb grows into the prosthetic one,” said Giulio Rognini, EPFL.
For the study, the team provided artificial tactile sensations at the tip of the index finger— of the phantom limb— by stimulating the patient’s nerve in the stump, in two hand amputees.
At the same time, the patient wore virtual reality goggles which showed the index finger of the prosthetic limb glowing in synchrony with the administered touch sensations.