DARPA Program Sets Out to Restore Sensation in Prosthetics

The program will build upon DARPA's other prosthetic advances.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is putting together a collaborative research team to building the first neural system that will give naturalistic feeling and movement to prosthetic hands.

The Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program hopes to provide wounded service members with dexterous control over advanced prosthetics, giving them the benefit of having natural sensation and also reduction of “phantom limb” syndrome.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Case Western Reserve University, and Louis Stokes Cleveland Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, along with Medtronic and Ardiem Medical, are collaborating on the project that aims to develop neural interface systems that measure and decode motor signals recorded in peripheral nerves and muscles in the forearms using electrodes. The program will build on DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics and Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) programs.

The HAPTIX program will incorporate sensors that provide tactile and proprioceptive feedback to the patient from their hands through a patterned stimulation of sensory pathways in peripheral nerves. In order to deliver that stimulation, researchers are working on developing a “smart package” the size of a watch battery that will record and stimulate the peripheral nervous system in order to control movement and sensation in the prosthetic.

If the program is successful, users will be able to control prosthetic hand movements with their mind and have natural sensations, like the feeling of touch while holding someone’s hand, as well as other types of pressure, touch, and texture.  

For more information on the HAPTIX program, go here