ROME — A robotic hand has been successfully connected to an amputee, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts, a group of European scientists said Wednesday.
The experiment lasted a month, and the scientists say it was the first time a patient has been able to make complex movements using his mind to control a biomechanic hand connected to his nervous system.
The Italian-led team said at a news conference Wednesday in Rome that last year it implanted electrodes into the arm of the patient who had lost his left hand and forearm in a car accident.
The prosthetic was not implanted on the patient, only connected through the electrodes. During the news conference, video was shown of 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello as he concentrated to give orders to the hand placed next to him.
"It's a matter of mind, of concentration," Petruzziello said. "When you think of it as your hand and forearm, it all becomes easier."
During the month he had the electrodes connected, Petruzziello learned to wiggle the robotic fingers independently, make a fist, grab objects and make other movements.
"Some of the gestures cannot be disclosed because they were quite vulgar," joked Paolo Maria Rossini, a neurologist who led the team working at Rome's "Campus Bio-Medico," a university and hospital that specialize in health sciences.
The euro2 million ($3 million) project, funded by the European Union, took five years to complete and produced several scientific papers that have been published or are being submitted to top journals, including Science Translational Medicine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Rossini said.
Experts not involved in the study told The Associated Press the experiment was an important step forward in creating an interface between the nervous system and prosthetic limbs, but the challenge now is ensuring that such a system can remain in the patient for years and not just a month.