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 Brain develops motor memory for prosthetics, study finds

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Date posted: 21/07/2009

"Practice makes perfect" is the maxim drummed into students struggling to learn a new motor skill - be it riding a bike or developing a killer backhand in tennis. Stunning new 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, to be published July 21 in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, macaque monkeys using brain signals learned how to move a computer cursor to various targets. What the researchers learned was that the brain could develop a mental map of a solution to achieve the task with high proficiency, and that it adhered to that neural pattern without deviation, much like a driver sticks to a given route commuting to work.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, 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 study principal investigator Jose Carmena, a UC Berkeley assistant professor with joint appointments in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, and the Program in Cognitive Science. "The profound part of our study is that this is all happening with something that is not part of one's own body. We have demonstrated that the brain is able to form a motor memory to control a disembodied device in a way that mirrors how it controls its own body. That has never been shown before."

See the full Story via external site: www.physorg.com



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