Perfecting a Fully Functioning Prosthetic Hand

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In the USC Viterbi School of Engineering‘s department of biomedical engineering, Francisco Valero-Cuevas collaborates with Terry Sanger and Gerald Loeb to build “brain on a chip” models of the nervous system, where computer programs simulate populations of neurons in the human spinal cord. When running, the encoded neurons could control a robotic or prosthetic hand the same way we control our own bodies. This will be a practical test of our understanding of how complex function emerges in the nervous system from populations of relatively “simple” individual neurons, how they communicate with each other, and ultimately how they control our muscles.

Image: The researcher uses cadaver hands to test his computer models of neural control. With the help of surgeons, the hands’ tendons are connected to strings driven by electric motors. The motor activity is controlled by the neuron software. Credit Katherine Duffy.

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