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Focus on Physiology  April 2017
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Focus on Physiology  April 2017

Focus on Physiology
October 2017

Featured Experiment

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Human-to-Human Muscle Control

It’s an invasion. Take control…of your partner that is!

An exciting, new technological development has to deal with the science and research into neuroprosthetics. A neuroprosthetic is a device that replaces the function of a damaged body part and interfaces with the nervous system – think of the body suit that Iron Man wears and the new prosthetic devices that are being 3-D printed for use for kids with malformed limbs. These devices can be controlled by the person using them just by thinking about what they want to do, like writing or holding onto something. These devices are controlled in such a way so there is an interface with the nervous system to make the prosthetic work.

There are many reasons why this research is so exciting. One has to do with how to help people with spinal cord injuries. Currently, if someone damages their spinal cord above a certain point, they are confined to a wheelchair and could be on supportive mechanisms to help them breathe; this is what happened to Christopher Reeves after his accident from falling off a horse. The interesting thing is that even though the spinal cord is damaged, the muscles in the person’s limbs are still “alive” and can function, but they need to receive information from somewhere to be able to move. With a damaged spinal cord, the information being sent from the brain does not reach the limbs.

Human-to-Human Interaction Lab

This is where neuroprosthetics comes into play. Imagine if you could send a signal from the brain directly to a prosthesis, and have it work!! There is currently research out there where this is actually happening. Another method of controlling artificial limbs is by using the electrical activity generated by pectoral or quadriceps muscles to control the sensors and motors right in the robotic arm or leg.

So, where does this “invasion” (human-to-human control) come in? In lab, since we do not have the capability to get Iron Man’s suit or 3-D print a prosthetic, we can use one person as the “brain” or “invader” and one person as the “body - prosthesis”. This means that one person will have the ability to actually control the movements of the other!

This will be done by using the stimulator on the IX-TA unit and having Person A (the “controller”) squeeze a ball that will in turn signal the interface (the IX-TA) to fire a signal off to Person B. Person B’s hand will be holding the hand dynamometer and when “A” squeezes the ball…Person B will squeeze the hand dynamometer…totally without their own control.

Download the Lab

View Lab (.pdf)

Web Links
Visit our Web Resources page to find external links to a wide range of topics in physiology.

Upcoming Events

Society for Neuroscience
November 11-15, 2017
Washington, DC

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