Biological and Bionic Hands: Natural Neural Coding and Artificial Perception


Location: 378 Corbett Family Hall

On Monday, April 15th, Dr. Sliman Bensmaia an associate professor at The University of Chicago, will be giving a talk at a combined meeting of Neuroscience and Behavior (NSBH) and CBBSG 12-1pm in Corbett E378. Details about his talk are below. Free food (Firehouse Subs) for attendees will be served from 11:50 am.  


Biological and Bionic Hands: Natural Neural Coding and Artificial Perception

Our ability to manipulate objects dexterously relies fundamentally on sensory signals originating from the hand. To restore motor function with upper-limb neuroprostheses requires that somatosensory feedback be provided to the tetraplegic patient or amputee. Given the complexity of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs, and thus the huge state-space they can traverse, it is desirable to minimize the need of the patient to learn associations between events impinging upon the limb and arbitrary sensations. With this in mind, we seek to develop approaches to intuitively convey sensory information that is critical for object manipulation – information about contact location, pressure, and timing – through intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) of primary somatosensory cortex (S1). To this end, we test in psychophysical experiments with monkeys, the sensations evoked by ICMS of S1. Based on these results, we show how to build a biomimetic encoding algorithm for conveying tactile feedback through a cortical interface and show that artificial touch improves the dexterity of brain-controlled bionic hands.  


Bio: Sliman Bensmaia explores how the brain interprets information received through the senses of touch and proprioception, such as the shape, size, and texture of an object grasped in the hand. His research may one day lead to prosthetic devices that restore the sense of touch to amputees and tetraplegic patients. Bensmaia’s work has already led to a brain-computer interface—a robotic arm that transmits sensory feedback through electrodes implanted in areas of the brain responsible for handmovement and touch. The interface was implanted in a tetraplegic patient who reported an ability to “feel” objects through his prosthesis. A widely published author, Bensmaia has spoken at dozens of invited talks and symposia and holds four patents. He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the American Physiological Society, and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.