Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Implant allows paralyzed man to feel again


From Amy Ellis Nutt at Washington Post:

For the first time, scientists have helped a paralyzed man experience the sense of touch in his mind-controlled robotic arm.

For the cutting-edge experiment, a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, electrodes smaller than a grain of sand were implanted in the sensory cortex of the man’s brain. The electrodes received signals from a robot arm. When a researcher pressed the fingers of the prosthesis, the man felt the pressure in the fingers of his paralyzed right hand, effectively bypassing his damaged spinal cord.

The results of the experiment, which have been repeated over several months with 30-year-old Nathan Copeland, offer a breakthrough in the restoration of a critical function in people with paralyzed limbs: the ability not just to move those limbs, but to feel them. More.

But who or what is doing the feeling? Is it, in some sense, him? Or did “evolution” breed a sense of reality out of us?

See also: Great physicists on the immateriality of the mind


Dutch government plans to legalize euthanasia for people who are just tired of life. When that crosses the Atlantic, forget research. Health care research depends on the idea that death is bad.

Follow UD News at Twitter!

Thanks much to dionisio above for most helpful info. News
News, Follow-up to previous post: The patient is the one who feels the touch signal (sensor impulses) masterfully delivered in the appropriate magnitude to the brain area in charge of receiving and preprocessing such a signal before it's processed by the actual person. The patient feels it and acts accordingly. Some impulses could mean 'hot surface' has been touched. Other signals could mean 'sharp object' has pinched the prosthetic finger. Now, do they have those different 'touch' impulses figured out? Maybe. Don't know. But they could find that out through research. However, in any case they're dealing with the information going from the 'touch' sensors to the brain or from the brain to the prosthetic fingers to act according to the patient's decision, which is beyond the scope of this experiment and outside the domain of current science. A SEAL could react to painful impulses completely different than a guy like me, who would scream 'ouch!' right away. :) Exactly the same impulses delivered to the same cortical area would provoke totally different reactions from two different folks or even from the same person under different conditions. The touch impulses are combined with visual impulses, environmental information, his/her ideas about certain related things, and gazillion other factors that modern science can't grasp. Strong AI is a figment in some folks' imagination. Dionisio
News, You've asked excellent questions:
[...] who or what is doing the feeling? Is it, in some sense, him?
Here's a reference to the actual paper associated with the given experiment: Posted yesterday @2138 in this thread: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/mystery-at-the-heart-of-life/#comment-619168 Note that in that same thread posted @2133-2139 there are various references to papers about the same issues. Let’s keep in mind that none of this deals with the actual will associated with the given command, movement or sensor impulses they refer to in this paper. In the case of the command/motor impulses, they’re most probably similar for both voluntary and involuntary movements. The possible reasoning preceding the command/motor impulses is in and by itself a different class of informational process, beyond the grasp of modern science. The same applies to the process underlying the interpretation of/reaction to the sensor impulses associated with the 'touch'. The given experiment has to do with communicating to the subject enough information for an 'educated' decision or knee-jerk reaction (if the incoming signal are interpreted as 'too hot'). But the ultimate interpretation and follow up decision is the subject's. That's beyond the scope of the given experiment. Dionisio

Leave a Reply