Brain can develop memory to control prosthetic devices

July 25th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 25 (IANS) “Practice makes a man perfect” is the fundamental principle followed while struggling to learn a new motor skill — be it riding a bike or developing a killer backhand in tennis.
Research now reveals that the brain can also achieve this motor memory with a prosthetic device, providing hope that physically disabled people can one day master control of artificial limbs with greater ease.

In this study, macaque monkeys used brain signals and learned how to move a computer cursor to various targets.

Researchers concluded that the brain could develop a mental map to achieve the task with high proficiency, much like a driver sticks to a given route commuting to work.

The study, conducted by University of California-Berkeley (UC-B) scientists, addresses a fundamental question about whether the brain can establish a stable, neural map of a motor task to make control of an artificial limb more intuitive.

“When your own body performs motor tasks repeatedly, the movements become almost automatic,” said Jose Carmena, principal study investigator at the UC-B.

“We have demonstrated that the brain is able to form a motor memory to control a disembodied device in a way that shows how it controls its own body. That has never been shown before,” Carmena added.

Already, researchers have demonstrated that rodents, non-human primates and humans are able to control robotic devices or computer cursors using only brain signals.

These findings have been published in PLoS Biology.

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