Artificial Intelligence, Science, Technology
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Researchers determine how the brain controls robotic grasping tools

Could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled
brain-activity-planning-and-execution-stagePlanning and execution phase responses in a manual task. (A) Relative to resting baseline, both types of action planning were associated with significant increases in occipital cortex, extending dorsally into the medial superior parietal lobule, left premotor cortex, bilateral TPJ, and cMTG. (B) During movement execution, grasp-related increases in activity were found near the intersection of the IPS and postcentral sulcus contralateral to the hand involved. (Credit: Scott H. Frey et al./ Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

University of Missouri researchers have found evidence that the cerebellum portion of the brain may play a critical role in the complex network of brain functions involved in grasping. Their findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

“For those with disabilities, assistive technologies, such as robotic arms or sensors inserted in the brain, make it possible to accomplish actions like grasping with the press of a button or directly through brain activity; however, little is known about how the human brain adapts to these technologies,” said Scott Frey, professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science and director of the Brain Imaging Center at MU.

Frey’s team found that the brain is not natively able to control tools, such as robotic arms, but that the cerebellum, an ancient portion of our brain that has remained relatively unchanged, does plays a vital role in helping us reach and grasp with these tools — often with only minimal training.

In the study, participants completed a series of ordinary reaching and grasping tasks involving colored wooden blocks. Regions of the brain were monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

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This entry was posted in: Artificial Intelligence, Science, Technology


I made my bones as an advertising copywriter. My TV, radio and print ads have amused millions of people and helped sell tons of cleaning products, coffee, macadamia nuts and other goodies. But I prefer that other kind of fiction: short stories and novels. My first published novel, Mindclone, is a near-future look at the amusing and serious consequences of brain-uploading. It’s garnered mostly five star reviews. The sequel is percolating in my brain even now. Stay tuned.

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