Research in the field of improving the modern concept of bioelectric prostheses is gradually changing its course and becoming more multifaceted and multifunctional. And today an article has appeared about the new development of special electronic skin for specialists from Johns Hopkins University in the USA, which suggests a much more multifunctional and interesting nature of their work. An article by researchers published in the scientific journal Science Robotics raises highly relevant questions about how easy it is to implement things that are quite complex from the point of view of molecular neurobiology, which were previously considered generally impossible.
Named as “e-dermis", the presented concept of electronic skin is based on the TENS invasive sensitivity method, which is a combination of the basis of electronic skin with the nerve endings of the rest of the flesh. The very design of electronic skin is made of a hybrid of fabric and rubber of a special property, so that this prosthesis feels light and quite brightly conveys certain tactile sensations to its owner.
However, the developers note that for the competent and full-fledged tuning of the operation of this electronic skin, it is necessary to pre-engage in many hours of mapping the patient's nerve endings to connect them to the surface of the prosthesis. In their experiments, the researchers also actively used the EEG to take patient testimonies – they noted for the most part that the tactile feedback seems very realistic and devoid of any artificiality.
It is worth noting that neuro-electronic stimulation is largely based on the connection of the brain with the patient’s real skin, to which this electronic skin is attached – depending on how successfully the neural mapping is performed, the final result may vary slightly. The developers note that due to the possibility of fine tuning, patients can independently adjust the degree and patterns of tactile feedback, reducing, for example, the pain factor or increasing macro-tactile sensations when working with different surfaces.