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A Better ­Understanding of Brain Health at Our (bionic) Fingertips

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Shedding light on how the whole brain functions.

Two European Union-funded projects have been working to develop prosthetics that offer almost natural motion and sensation.

Credit: Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock

The European Union-funded NANOBIOTOUCH and NEBIAS projects examined how touch stimuli and neural processing interact for the purpose of making robotic prosthetics more intuitive.

NANOBIOTOUCH created a human finger pad for detecting directional force and temperature, and its insights were applied toward combining nanoelectromechanical arrays with neural-network information processing to enable artificial exploration of surfaces for more human-like haptic behavior and affective response.

Meanwhile, NEBIAS is developing an upper-limb prosthesis controlled by a neural interface, effecting a stable and selective link with the nervous system. NEBIAS also aims to better understand the "language" facilitating the central nervous system's communication with peripheral nerve signals by investigating electromagnetic brain and nerve signals and movement-related changes in the brain's blood flow and metabolism.

One outcome of this research is a recent study that mimicked human touch sensations using a bionic fingertip designed for robotic upper-limb neuroprostheses.

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