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

to become difficult. This allows him to identify what impact a specific sense has on how the brain controls the hands.

In his experiments, he imposes sensory deficits on test subjects, using goggles to block vision at selected times during the manipulation to interfere with the subjects' abilities to learn and execute grasping tasks. "We want to understand what aspects of visual feedback help the brain to successfully control grasping of an object and store a memory representation of that action," he explains.

Gordon's does cerebral palsy research. His related collaborative work with Santello focuses on cognitive aspects of the interaction between the brain and the hands, assessing the information the brain gains and processes from sensing the shapes of objects and exploring the role of memory of past actions.

"It's important to discern the basic mechanisms of storing the memory of recently performed actions, of planning future actions and integrating sensory feedback in healthy individuals, so that we might be better able to understand and treat neurological or musculoskeletal disorders," Santello says.

"In particular, understanding how we integrate 'what we know' from prior manipulations with an object and 'what we see' is crucial." Gordon says. "This is all the more important when our senses, and thus our ability to create sensory memories, is impaired, as is often the case in cerebral palsy."

Knowledge gained by such research can also be applied to improving neuroprosthetics. Current technology is able to provide extremely sophisticated artificial hands, but controlling the hands remains a challenge.

"The more we understand about the high- level processing that the brain has to go through to plan an action, the closer we will be to building more intelligent prosthetic systems that are capable of more human-like performance," Santello says.

Like Gordon, Santello has expertise in kinesiology the stud
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Contact: Joe Kullman
joe.kullman@asu.edu
480-965-8122
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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