To assess the usefulness, compatibility, and long-term operability of a microelectrode array into the median nerve of the left arm of a healthy volunteer, including perception of feedback stimulation and operation of an instrumented prosthetic hand.
The study was carried out from March 14 through June 18, 2002, in England and the United States.
The blindfolded subject received feedback information, obtained from force and slip sensors on the prosthetic hand, and subsequently used the implanted device to control the hand by applying an appropriate force to grip an unseen object. Operability was also demonstrated remotely via the Internet, with the subject in New York, NY, and the prosthetic hand in Reading, England. Finally, the subject was able to control an electric wheelchair, via decoded signals from the implant device, to select the direction of travel by opening and closing his hand. The implantation did not result in infection or any perceivable loss of hand sensation or motion control. The implant was finally extracted because of mechanical fatigue of the percutaneous connection. Further testing after extraction has not indicated any measurable long-term defects in the subject.
This implant may allow recipients to have abilities they would otherwise not possess. The response to stimulation improved considerably during the trial, suggesting that the subject learned to process the incoming information more effectively.