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Q&A: Robotics as a tool to understand the brain.

Wolpert DM, Flanagan JR - BMC Biol. (2010)

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK. wolpert@eng.cam.ac.uk

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Although humanoid robots are often in the press, most robotic devices found in neuroscience labs around the world are specialized devices for controlling stimuli and creating virtual environments... In motor control studies, robots are often used to simulate physical objects that move when force is applied and therefore have dynamics... The basic idea is that the patient is attached to a robot that can partially assist the patient's movements... As the patient improves, the contribution of the robot can be decreased... Over the past few years there has been substantial interest in trying to extract meaningful information from signals recorded from the brain to control external devices... The main driving force for this research is to develop devices that will allow patients with neural impairments, including spinal cord injury and motor neuron disease, as well as amputees to effect movement... Several groups have now graduated from using neural signals to driving cursor movement on a screen to using the signals to drive a robotic system, with some groups using implanted arrays in nonhuman primate cortex to control a robot that the animal uses to feed itself... At present, such systems do not fully close the loop; while the animal can see the robotic interface, and therefore guide it visually, effective tactile feedback, which may allow a finer manipulation ability, has yet to be fully developed... To our knowledge the first robotic interface that had a major impact on sensorimotor neuroscience was developed in the 1980s by Neville Hogan's group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology... Today, robots are where computers were 30 years ago... That is, they are highly specialized and expensive devices found in a handful of labs around the world and require considerable expertise to use... However, we expect that in the years ahead, robots will become affordable, flexible and easy to use and that many labs will employ a range of robotic devices for neuroscience experiments and as a theoretical test bed... Volpe BT, Huerta PT, Zipse JL, Rykman A, Edwards D, Dipietro L, Hogan N, Krebs HI:... Arch Neurol 2009, 1086-1090.

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A robot used in a recent experiment on motor control. The schematic shows a Wrist-bot being used to simulate a virtual hammer manipulated in the horizontal plane. The robotic interface consists of a linked structure actuated by two motors (not shown) that can translate the handle in the horizontal plane. In addition a third motor drives a cable system to rotate the handle. In this way both the forces and torques at the handle can be controlled depending on the handle's position and orientation (and higher time derivatives) to simulate arbitrary dynamics - in this case a virtual hammer is simulated. Modified from Current Biology, Vol. 20, Ingram et al., Multiple grasp-specific representations of tool dynamics mediate skillful manipulation, Copyright (2010), with permission from Elsevier.
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Figure 1: A robot used in a recent experiment on motor control. The schematic shows a Wrist-bot being used to simulate a virtual hammer manipulated in the horizontal plane. The robotic interface consists of a linked structure actuated by two motors (not shown) that can translate the handle in the horizontal plane. In addition a third motor drives a cable system to rotate the handle. In this way both the forces and torques at the handle can be controlled depending on the handle's position and orientation (and higher time derivatives) to simulate arbitrary dynamics - in this case a virtual hammer is simulated. Modified from Current Biology, Vol. 20, Ingram et al., Multiple grasp-specific representations of tool dynamics mediate skillful manipulation, Copyright (2010), with permission from Elsevier.

Mentions: Robots have been particularly important in areas of neuroscience that focus on physical interactions with the world, including haptics (the study of touch) and sensorimotor control (the study of movement). Indeed, robots have done for these areas what computer monitors have done for visual neuroscience. For decades, visual neuroscientists had a substantial advantage because generating visual stimuli is straightforward using computers and monitors. This allowed the precise experimental control over visual inputs necessary to test between hypotheses in visual neuroscience. However, when it came to haptics and sensorimotor control, it has been far harder to control the stimuli. For example, to study haptics one might want to create arbitrary physical objects for tactile exploration, whereas to study motor learning one might want to generate physical objects that have novel dynamical properties and change these properties in real time. Robotic interfaces allow precisely this type of manipulation. In many motor control experiments, the participant holds and moves the end of a robotic interface (Figure 1) and the forces delivered by the robot to the participant's hand depend on the hand's position and velocity (the hand's state). The mapping between the hand's state and the forces applied by the robot is computer controlled and, within the capabilities of the robots, the type of mapping is only limited by the experimenter's imagination.


Q&A: Robotics as a tool to understand the brain.

Wolpert DM, Flanagan JR - BMC Biol. (2010)

A robot used in a recent experiment on motor control. The schematic shows a Wrist-bot being used to simulate a virtual hammer manipulated in the horizontal plane. The robotic interface consists of a linked structure actuated by two motors (not shown) that can translate the handle in the horizontal plane. In addition a third motor drives a cable system to rotate the handle. In this way both the forces and torques at the handle can be controlled depending on the handle's position and orientation (and higher time derivatives) to simulate arbitrary dynamics - in this case a virtual hammer is simulated. Modified from Current Biology, Vol. 20, Ingram et al., Multiple grasp-specific representations of tool dynamics mediate skillful manipulation, Copyright (2010), with permission from Elsevier.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2909176&req=5

Figure 1: A robot used in a recent experiment on motor control. The schematic shows a Wrist-bot being used to simulate a virtual hammer manipulated in the horizontal plane. The robotic interface consists of a linked structure actuated by two motors (not shown) that can translate the handle in the horizontal plane. In addition a third motor drives a cable system to rotate the handle. In this way both the forces and torques at the handle can be controlled depending on the handle's position and orientation (and higher time derivatives) to simulate arbitrary dynamics - in this case a virtual hammer is simulated. Modified from Current Biology, Vol. 20, Ingram et al., Multiple grasp-specific representations of tool dynamics mediate skillful manipulation, Copyright (2010), with permission from Elsevier.
Mentions: Robots have been particularly important in areas of neuroscience that focus on physical interactions with the world, including haptics (the study of touch) and sensorimotor control (the study of movement). Indeed, robots have done for these areas what computer monitors have done for visual neuroscience. For decades, visual neuroscientists had a substantial advantage because generating visual stimuli is straightforward using computers and monitors. This allowed the precise experimental control over visual inputs necessary to test between hypotheses in visual neuroscience. However, when it came to haptics and sensorimotor control, it has been far harder to control the stimuli. For example, to study haptics one might want to create arbitrary physical objects for tactile exploration, whereas to study motor learning one might want to generate physical objects that have novel dynamical properties and change these properties in real time. Robotic interfaces allow precisely this type of manipulation. In many motor control experiments, the participant holds and moves the end of a robotic interface (Figure 1) and the forces delivered by the robot to the participant's hand depend on the hand's position and velocity (the hand's state). The mapping between the hand's state and the forces applied by the robot is computer controlled and, within the capabilities of the robots, the type of mapping is only limited by the experimenter's imagination.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK. wolpert@eng.cam.ac.uk

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

Although humanoid robots are often in the press, most robotic devices found in neuroscience labs around the world are specialized devices for controlling stimuli and creating virtual environments... In motor control studies, robots are often used to simulate physical objects that move when force is applied and therefore have dynamics... The basic idea is that the patient is attached to a robot that can partially assist the patient's movements... As the patient improves, the contribution of the robot can be decreased... Over the past few years there has been substantial interest in trying to extract meaningful information from signals recorded from the brain to control external devices... The main driving force for this research is to develop devices that will allow patients with neural impairments, including spinal cord injury and motor neuron disease, as well as amputees to effect movement... Several groups have now graduated from using neural signals to driving cursor movement on a screen to using the signals to drive a robotic system, with some groups using implanted arrays in nonhuman primate cortex to control a robot that the animal uses to feed itself... At present, such systems do not fully close the loop; while the animal can see the robotic interface, and therefore guide it visually, effective tactile feedback, which may allow a finer manipulation ability, has yet to be fully developed... To our knowledge the first robotic interface that had a major impact on sensorimotor neuroscience was developed in the 1980s by Neville Hogan's group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology... Today, robots are where computers were 30 years ago... That is, they are highly specialized and expensive devices found in a handful of labs around the world and require considerable expertise to use... However, we expect that in the years ahead, robots will become affordable, flexible and easy to use and that many labs will employ a range of robotic devices for neuroscience experiments and as a theoretical test bed... Volpe BT, Huerta PT, Zipse JL, Rykman A, Edwards D, Dipietro L, Hogan N, Krebs HI:... Arch Neurol 2009, 1086-1090.

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