Week 10: Expanding motor functions

This week the topic was motor functions of the body. This was interesting, since until now the focus has been on bringing information from the world to the brain and processing it. Motor functions are our main means of interacting with the world around us.

In the previous blog post I had been wondering, how the human sensory system could be expanded with technology trough sensory substitution, or trough implants. This chapter got me wondering if the same principle could work the other way around. With brain machine interfaces wired to the motor cortex, paralyzed people have been able to control robotic arms. The primary motor cortex is segmented for different parts of the body so that each area corresponds to different part of the body. Thus mimicking a limb should be quite straight forward, just read the right signals and do right analysis. But how about adding a new “limb” to human. for example controlling additional robotic arm which would move independently from other limbs? Could the motor cortex adjust to existence of this new limb somehow?

As we can add new senses without implants trough sensory substitution, we could also add new “limbs”, material or virtual, by utilizing the existing motor entities we have. Think of a E-sports player playing for example an intense first person shooter. As they may be making up to 8 actions per second, there is no way they are consciously managing their fingers to do the right moves, but rather their fingers just relay the actions to the character in the game. Same thing is with surgeons using robotic tools to work inside human body. The tool becomes an extension of the users mind.

Posted by Eero Prittinen

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