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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