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The human brain adopted the robotic “third thumb”

The robotic “third thumb” places a person in the unnatural position of having six fingers in one hand Volunteers will learn automatic finger control very quickly. “Rebuilding” the functions of the respective brain centers helps them with this

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In the cult science fiction movie Gattaca The six-finger pianist excels at concert. There is no doubt that an extra finger will allow the musician to operate what his five-toed competitor cannot handle. However, scientists are not sure how the human brain would handle if we suddenly add a finger, hand, or foot to someone. The answer to these questions now comes from an experiment by British scientists The results have been published in a scientific journal Robotics science.

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He used a team led by neurologist Tamar McCain of University College London for the experiment The robotic finger of the third thumb was developed by Daniel Claude of the Royal College of Art in London. The third thumb resembles a prosthetic finger. However, it does not replace a lost finger.

It is attached to the hand next to the little finger and thus the person gets a hand with two thumbs. The third thumb can be bent and straightened, allowing a person to grasp a variety of small things. It is controlled by pressing a sensor attached to the toe. Commands are transmitted wirelessly.

Take part in the experiment Twenty volunteers trained using a robotic finger for five days from two to six hours a day. For example, try to pick up as many balls or glasses as possible with one hand. However, volunteers used a robotic finger in their daily routine activities.

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Over time, they got it under control so well that it fulfilled their desires even when they were solving another problem and couldn’t fully focus on the robotic finger control. Training results were compared with A group of ten volunteers wore a fixed prosthesis for the same period of time.

The brain adopted the third thumb

The volunteers learned to control the robot very quickly and after some time began to perceive it as an integral part of their bodies. Thus, experience proved that A person has sufficient brain capacity to handle the expansion of the motor organs.

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Before and after training scholars Examination of volunteers’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging. They compared how the functions of the finger control centers changed in volunteer training with the third thumb and the volunteers wearing a non-functional mimic. Showed that Users of the functional robot finger significantly altered the activities of the motor centers involved.

Volunteers using a non-functional finger still had the same “pattern” of irritation with a different type of activity for the area of ​​the brain responsible for controlling each finger when moving the fingers in the sensorimotor cortex. Conversely, third thumb users had more balanced finger control center activities, as if they were standardized.

After a week of no volunteers using the third thumb, the difference gradually disappeared. Hence, the changes in the brain are caused by the use of a robotic finger They may not have a lasting effect.

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MobiLimb is an automated finger. You connect it to your mobile phone and you need to touch your hands

The study authors are convinced that similar robotic assistants will find practical application in the future. They can be used, for example, by surgeons, who avoid unattended operations. Other work, such as assembly and repairs in confined spaces, can also be more efficient with the help of robotic devices.