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Advanced artificial limbs mapped in the brain

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James Howard
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Targeted motor and sensory reinnervation (TMSR) is a surgical procedure on patients with amputations that reroutes residual limb nerves towards intact muscles and skin in order to fit them with a limb prosthesis allowing unprecedented control.

By its nature, TMSR changes the way the brain processes motor control and somatosensory input; however the detailed brain mechanisms have never been investigated before and the success of TMSR prostheses will depend on our ability to understand the ways the brain re-maps these pathways.

Now, EPFL scientists have used ultra-high field 7 Tesla fMRI to show how TMSR affects upper-limb representations in the brains of patients with amputations, in particular in primary motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex and regions processing more complex brain functions.

On the other hand, direct stimulation of the skin over the re-innervated muscles is sent back to the brain, inducing touch perception on the missing limb.

But how does the brain encode and integrate such artificial touch and movements of the prosthetic limb?

Achieving and fine-tuning such control depends on knowing how the patient's brain re-maps various motor and somatosensory pathways in the motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex.

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