Research in brain-hand connection could improve neuroprostheses

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $640,000 grant to Marco Santello and Andrew Gordon to continue their research on the cognitive connections between the hands and the brain. The research focuses on the cognitive aspects of the interaction between the brain and the hand, assessing the information the brain gains and processes from sensing the shapes of objects and exploring the role of memory of past actions. The knowledge gained by these experiments could improve how amputees control neuroprostheses.

“The more we understand about the high level processing that the brain has to go through to plan an action, the closer we will be to building more intelligent prosthetic systems that are capable of more human-like performance,” Santello stated in a press release.

Santello is a biomedical engineering professor at Arizona State University and the interim director of ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, and Gordon is a professor of movement science at Columbia University. The two have worked together for several years investigating the connections between the sensory feedback and motor actions involved in hand control. Their current project aims to determine the neural mechanisms that control the learning and planning of the grasping and manipulation of objects by examining visual cues that people use to assess object properties before they grab or use an object.

“We want to understand what aspects of visual feedback help the brain to successfully control grasping of an object and store a memory representation of that action,” Santello stated.

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