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New discoveries about brain-hand connection sought to improve therapies, treatments, prosthetics
Date:3/21/2012

Research at Arizona State University and Columbia University to better understand the intricate sensory and cognitive connections between the brain and the hands has won support from the National Science Foundation. New discoveries about such connections could benefit people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and cerebral palsy, and those who need prosthetic hands.

The NSF has awarded a $640,000 grant to fund a research collaboration between Marco Santello, an ASU professor of biomedical engineering, and Columbia University scientist Andrew Gordon to expand their studies in this area.

Santello is also interim director of the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Gordon is a professor of movement science in the Behavioral Science department in Columbia's Teachers College, where he coordinates the Kinesiology program.

The two have worked together for several years in pursuit of deeper knowledge about interactions between sensory feedback and motor actions involved in control of the hand.

In their current project they're seeking to determine the neural mechanisms that control learning and planning of the grasping and manipulation of objects.

They're examining the visual cues people use to assess object properties before they grasp or otherwise manipulate objects. In addition to using cues such as object shape or density, people often use memory of similar actions performed in the past.

"We can pick up these cues, and we can predict the result of our actions on an object, but we don't know exactly how the brain does this," Santello says.

Santello's focus is on neural control of the hand and the workings of senses such as vision and touch. By manipulating these senses in people with normal brain, hand and muscle functions, Santello studies what causes the performance of an action that is easy under normal conditions
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Contact: Joe Kullman
joe.kullman@asu.edu
480-965-8122
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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