Last year, a reporter and photographer for National Geographic visited Michigan Medicine as part of their June cover story on the power of touch.They were here to document an innovative project, one that our researchers had been working on for more than a decade: a mind-controlled prosthetic hand.
Neil Oldham, whose lower arm and hand had been amputated several years earlier, was one of 10 patients involved in the research. He’d agreed to let the Nat Geo folks follow him as he underwent surgery to attach electrodes to nerves in his arm.
Surgeons Paul Cederna, Theodore Kung, Kevin Chung, and Carrie Kubiakfirst wrapped the nerves in small pieces of muscle to amplify their signal, as a megaphone would. Then came the electrodes, which would help Oldham translate brain signals into real-time movements of his hand and fingers.
Eventually, the doctors hope that Oldham and their other patients will be able to feel sensations like pressure in their prosthetic hands, too.