Robotic arm that could give amputees the sensation of touch

A robotic arm that could result in amputees regaining their sense of touch and increased movement is the latest breakthrough for Melbourne researchers trying to develop prosthetic limbs that work "like normal".

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The joint-project between St Vincent's Hospital's Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery and Melbourne University is looking at the way the arm and brain signals communicate.

They have been able to send brain signals to the robotic arm, but now are looking at how to return those signals to give the sensation of touch.

Professor Peter Choong from St Vincent's Hospital said these new developments brought hope to amputees.

"It's really very exciting. If you're a patient who has lost a limb or part of a limb, something like this holds out hope for perhaps rebuilding them, allowing them to function much more normally than they do today," Professor Choong said.

The research has been ongoing for a number of years, but scientists believe they are now even closer to simulating a "normal" arm.

"We already have amazing developments in prosthetic limbs, and this research is more about allowing a person to have feel control on that limb, just like it were a normal human limb," Professor Choong said.

They hope to have the next breakthrough in the next couple of years as they understand how the brain reads and interprets signals.

Professor Choong said this latest step was a perfect example of the need for more scientific funding.

"There is a lot to be gained from science, the chief scientific officer's report shows that we contribute considerably to Australia's intellectual and economical wealth, and I think this is an area desperately in need for support from both federal and state governments."

This article first appeared on ABC News on 28 May 2016. Click here to view the original.