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U. Of C. Researchers Developing Artificial Limbs That Can Feel

Prosthetic Leg

Technician adjusts an artificial limb, International Commitee of the Red Cross orthopedic center, Golbaha, Afghanistan, 10/31/01 (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Researchers at the University of Chicago are working on developing artificial limbs that can feel.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Debra Dale reports, current artificial limbs lack the sense of touch, and users have to use their sense of sight for even simple tasks.

But now, the Chicago Tribune reports the U. of C. scientists are working to translate the qualities of touch to mathematical equations.

They hope to build algorithms to map out the way the brain reads those sensations, and eventually hope to develop software to transmit impulses to the brain mimicking the sense of touch.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Debra Dale reports

The research was conducted by neuroscientist Sliman Bensmaia, who attached wires to a rhesus monkey’s brain as the animal used a metal probe, the Tribune reported.

Bensmaia has been researching the somatosensatory system to improve artificial limbs since he came to the U. of C. in 2009.

His research has dealt with proprioceptive feedback, the mechanism the brain uses to track the location of fingers, toes and limbs at any given time. How neurons transmit that information to the brain is a mystery, the University of Chicago Magazine reported last year.

Bensmaia told the magazine he hopes prosthetic limbs will someday be as advanced as the fictional one used by Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” When the fingers on the hand are pricked with a pin, Skywalker feels everything.