A new study attaching an artificial thumb to the palm of the hand has produced surprising results in understanding human brain functions. The results show that people who use an automatic redundant thumb can naturally perform complex tasks, such as building a tower out of wooden blocks and stirring the coffee while holding it in hand. Participants also gradually felt that the robot thumb was worn on the side opposite to the user’s actual thumb and was part of their body.

Published in a magazine Scientific robotThis research provides new ideas for body enhancement using robotic equipment and artificial limbs to enhance body functions. Studying the human body’s response to these enhancement methods is the key to understanding the impact of these tools on our brains.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) and Oxford University say that the third thumb is 3D printed, which makes it easier for each user to customize it so that it can be worn on their little finger. Pressure sensors are installed on the feet of the person wearing it. These sensors on both toes are wirelessly connected to the thumb, and even subtle changes in the wearer’s pressure will react immediately.

During the five-day training period, 20 participants were trained. They are allowed to take their thumbs home to use in real life. Therefore, during the study period, participants wore their thumbs for two to six hours a day.

Professor Makin of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience is the main author of the study. He said that body enhancement is a developing field, but “we lack a clear understanding of how the brain adapts to it.” Through this study, researchers are trying to answer key questions about whether the human brain can support extra parts of the body.

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Paulina Kieliba, the lead author of the study, said that strengthening the body is valuable to society in many ways. “This line of work may revolutionize the concept of prostheses and can help people who can only use one hand forever or temporarily do anything with that hand.”

But, getting there, Kiriba added, more research is needed to find answers to complex, interdisciplinary questions about how these devices interact with our brains.


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