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Publication Detail
Intrinsic somatosensory feedback supports motor control and learning to operate artificial body parts
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Amoruso E, Dowdall L, Kollamkulam MT, Ukaegbu O, Kieliba P, Ng T, Dempsey-Jones H, Clode D, Makin T
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Journal of Neural Engineering
  • Status:
  • Country:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    artificial limbs, motor augmentation, motor control, motor learning, somatosensory feedback
  • Notes:
    As the Version of Record of this article is going to be/has been published on a gold open access basis under a CC BY 3.0 licence, this Accepted Manuscript is available for reuse under a CC BY 3.0 licence immediately.
Objective Considerable resources are being invested to enhance the control and usability of artificial limbs through the delivery of unnatural forms of somatosensory feedback. Here, we investigated whether intrinsic somatosensory information from the body part(s) remotely controlling an artificial limb can be leveraged by the motor system to support control and skill learning. Approach In a placebo-controlled design, we used local anaesthetic to attenuate somatosensory inputs to the big toes while participants learned to operate through pressure sensors a toe-controlled and hand-worn robotic extra finger. Motor learning outcomes were compared against a control group who received sham anaesthetic and quantified in three different task scenarios: while operating in isolation from, in synchronous coordination, and collaboration with, the biological fingers. Main results Both groups were able to learn to operate the robotic extra finger, presumably due to abundance of visual feedback and other relevant sensory cues. Importantly, the availability of displaced somatosensory cues from the distal bodily controllers facilitated the acquisition of isolated robotic finger movements, the retention and transfer of synchronous hand-robot coordination skills, and performance under cognitive load. Motor performance was not impaired by toes anaesthesia when tasks involved close collaboration with the biological fingers, indicating that the motor system can close the sensory feedback gap by dynamically integrating task-intrinsic somatosensory signals from multiple, and even distal, body- parts. Significance Together, our findings demonstrate that there are multiple natural avenues to provide intrinsic surrogate somatosensory information to support motor control of an artificial body part, beyond artificial stimulation.
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